Another year, another five per cent rise in council tax. Whatever happened to ex-councillor Bob Seely’s Island deal? Perhaps he’s too busy claiming his expenses. He’s on £82,000 – why can’t he pay his own rent? Instead, he charges us £1,200 a month for his West Wight digs.
The Bank of England says that, due to the pandemic and not going out, we’ve saved £100 billion. Those Tories at County Hall want to get hold of more of it, yet since 2017, they’ve increased Band D council tax by £32 a month while cutting £20 million from services. Where has all the money gone? They recently wasted tens of thousands on painting social distancing lines on pavements and now they want to double the cost of evening parking. That’s something to look forward to if and when the pubs and restaurants ever re-open.
Learning disability budgets have been cut again, while the mobile library service has completely gone. Even our last proper library, the Lord Louis in Newport, will close another day each week. If you’re poor enough to qualify for help with your council tax, they’re cutting your discount by 5 per cent.
Even the dead have to pay more. Unbelievably – during a pandemic – they’re increasing the cost of a grave and putting up crematorium fees. The Competition and Markets Authority recently published a report into how Britain’s councils have been ripping us all off for years by charging excessive crem fees. It’s shameful stuff but, instead of holding their hands up to price gouging, our money-grabbing council seems happy the Island is among the most expensive places in the country to die.
One local funeral director is offering off-Island ‘direct cremations’ at a much lower cost. Many Islanders can afford an extra few hundred for a local service, but the poorest face a tough choice. There’s no state help available for most people for funerals, so if you can’t afford the council’s eye-watering crematorium fees, sending your loved-one off Island for cremation may be the only option. A funeral is a hugely important event, a public full stop to a life that was lived, but without the funeral service we are left with the disposal of a body. Dispensing with a ceremony is a perfectly valid personal choice, but when it’s purely for cost reasons, it diminishes us, individually and collectively. As a society, we should not be denying the poorest the traditional opportunity to say goodbye.
The council wasted a million and a half on that failed turbine-energy scheme, millions more on their ‘call centre investment’ and the floating bridge. There’s no end to that fiasco in sight, so who knows what the final bill will be? Getting their priorities in order they did manage to spend £9 million on St Mary’s roundabout and increased their own allowances.
They also managed to pay their favourite PFI expert Jay Jayasundara’s private company hundreds of thousands of pounds. Quite how that’s helped fix our dreadful roads and pavements remains a mystery. If you live in Ventnor, or along Fairlee Road, you may quite reasonably ask when it will be your turn for a half-decent road surface?
The PFI contract was hailed by the Tories as a miracle cure for the Island’s decrepit roads, but when they put a thin skim of blacktop on my road it was breaking up again by the next day. Quite why the council lets them get away with it remains an unfathomable mystery.