Guest column by Jonathan Bacon – founder of Our Island

By Carole Dennett Oct 25, 2020

Douglas Adams was an amazing writer who came up with visionary ideas and quotes. In 1984 he wrote a book, ‘So Long and Thanks for all the Fish’, which could be the book about Brexit! An earlier book contained this brilliant quote: “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

“There is another theory which states this has already happened.”

IW Observer readers may think that statement could equally be applied to the Island’s council. It seems overly complex, it’s difficult to find out anything and, even before lockdown, incredibly difficult to engage with. But why?

Whatever the political direction at the helm, this situation is not so much intended as the result of years of savage cuts, responded to by repeated belt-tightening rather than any attempt to create a new way of working. The real failure in recent years has been a lack of radical action to find a way the council can become an effective body once again.

The present Isle of Wight Council was created in 1995, taking on the duties and powers of previous county and district councils. It is very much reliant on government funding, but continual cutbacks in the last decade have limited it to performing those functions statute requires of it. In all fairness, the council is unable to perform many of these to an adequate standard, as each year it is forced to reduce funding across many areas of essential operations.

Perhaps we should take a leaf from the book of another great writer, Charles Darwin, who commenced ‘The Origin of the Species’ in Sandown in 1858 and look to evolve!

Without serious and radical change, at some point the current approach will flounder. The council will be unable to balance its budget or, even worse, services will be in such a forlorn state that there will be a failure that harms residents. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, some might say this has already happened.

One suggestion which would make financial sense but unlikely to find favour, is to roll back the years to 1889 and again become a district of Hampshire. In fact, unless we do something locally this may yet be imposed upon us.
Other parts of the country have taken radical steps to tackle similar problems. The answer is out there; we just need to be prepared to find it and implement it.

In two years’ time do we want to be opening council tax bills that have gone up again seeing less and less in return? Change is essential. We must take apart the existing council and create something new that serves residents, rather than just allowing certain quarters to maintain a political fiefdom or protect a structure that just doesn’t work anymore. And it must be something that is neither ‘bizarre’ nor ‘inexplicable’!