Community Services Cuts ‘Will Be Based On Evidence Not Personal Dislikes’

Sports Hall at Carn Gwaval

Sports Hall at Carn Gwaval

The Chairman of Scilly’s Council says any proposed cuts to public services will be based on “evidence and need, not on personal likes and dislikes.”

Cllr Amanda Martin made the statement at last week’s Community Services meeting, where Council Vice Chairman, Steve Sims, told members he was “very keen on the library” but “not very keen on Lifelong Learning.”

Steve had asked for the budgets for the two services to be separated, so councillors could see how much each one cost.

But Cllr Sims’ outburst led to a stiff rebuke from Senior Manager for Community Services, Aisling Hick.

Aisling said Sims was, “talking about people studying there and working there.”

She said his comment, “doesn’t help any kind of sensible conversation and doesn’t help me do my job.”

Councillors were told that the Community Services budget was expected to overspend significantly this year.

A large proportion of the extra cost was the £280,000 more in funding provided to keep Park House running, but areas of sport and leisure were also in the red.

The library and Lifelong Learning will overspend by £113,000 while Healthy Living, which covers the sports hall and Normandy pool facilities, will cost £78,000 more than expected.

Finance officers say that’s due to a reduction in the amount paid by the school for use of the pool and a contribution from Adult Social Care that “failed to materialize.”

However, the figures were helped by savings on staff costs in housing, following the departure partway through the year of the former housing officer Ian Hamilton. That post hasn’t been replaced.

Council Chief Executive Theo Leijser told councillors at the start of the financial year that he had set a “balanced budget” for the authority after years of spending more on services than they received in grants and income.

But Aisling Hick admitted at the meeting that “unrealistic income levels” had been set for many of the services in her department.

At the meeting, councillors approved above inflation increases of up to 68% to fees and charges at the pool and sports hall next year.

However, senior officer for health and wellbeing, Joel Williams, said this will mainly apply to the cost of single sessions, and islanders who sign up to new ‘unlimited use’ packages will make significant savings over the current charges.

There could also be sales of refreshments and merchandise to raise income, as well as more targeted activities aimed at visitors.



19 Responses to Community Services Cuts ‘Will Be Based On Evidence Not Personal Dislikes’

  1. Robert February 29, 2016 at 11:25 am

    People will lose facilities if they don’t use them.

    The pool is a classic example, it’s used very sporadically, but it’s absence would be felt massively by families and some older people who use it to keep ‘fit’, or for re-ablement.

    I think the islands MUST have a public pool. The sea is freezing, it’s totally inappropriately for a toddler to learn to swim in our sea! And therein lies another issue here, if you close the pool then the next generation of children are not going to know how to swim on Scilly, and we’re talking 20 kids a year coming into the education system, year-on-year. Considering we live on an island, surrounded by water, and with nothing to do during the winter, kids will invariably play near to the coast. Oh look, one has fallen into the water, oh look, they can’t swim because the Authority shut the ONLY public pool in the ‘county’. Cause/Effect.

    The pool should have been brought into town, or Old Town. That was the big mistake from years past. It’s not well-used because it’s in a place that is not easy to get to if you don’t have a car, and even if you do have a car there are no parking spaces. The changing facilities are poor, and the hours are irregular for families especially. Despite all that, people still use it. It’s almost as if the Authority designed to the pool to be totally unusable! You couldn’t design a worse pool, location, layout, access.

    I understand that budget cuts are occurring across the country, but this Council needs to realise it’s the last line of defence between our community and the government decimating our community. First it’s pools, then what? Library? Parks?

    Look at Cornwall, there are over 20 public pools there, and countless others that are privately owned but open to the public:
    https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/leisure-centres-pools-and-facilities/

    Why aren’t Cornwall shutting ALL their pools? Why is it that government cuts might mean that one area (us) gets NO pool, and yet another area like Cornwall still have 20+? Surely, to christ, that rings a bell to say that the government formula for the Isles of Scilly is not fit for purpose and needs to be defied. Be it through the MP, through a petition, through actions such a refusing to pay tax, however it needs to be done, we owe it to the next generation of islanders to dig our heels in and stand up to a government that can magically find money to bomb Syria, build HS2, and renew Trident, but can’t properly support a bare-bones settlement for 2,000 people on Scilly to allow us a measly 10m pool?

    We need to stop apologising for living here. Yes it costs more money than elsewhere, we live ON A GROUP OF ISLANDS, IN DEEP WATER, 28 MILES FROM THE MAINLAND UK, WITH A VERY SMALL POPULATION THAT MAKES US A BAD INVESTMENT FOR THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY, OF COURSE IT COSTS MORE MONEY TO LIVE HERE. No amount of ‘saving’ or ‘efficiencies’ will make the Isles of Scilly as economically comparable to Perranporth or Lyme Regis.

    And the other aspect to consider is our ageing population. The cost of taking care of our community can ONLY increase year on year now unless we look at ways of mitigating that. Perhaps offer schemes to help people over 70 move to the mainland, as they are statistically more likely to need secondary medical care in hospitals etc, so why not pick a nice village somewhere in Cornwall and build some re-settlement homes?

    Call the government’s bluff. They’ve invested in the quay, in the roads, in the airport, in the school, in waste, and hopefully in water and sewerage, why?
    Because we haven’t got enough money to do it ourselves.
    Why would they NOW be surprised to hear that we need more money to make this community viable in terms of our annual settlement? It’s time we stopped ‘asking’ for a fair settlement (forget the money for other projects, they gave that us unconditionally), and started demanding it. What are they going to do, move us to the mainland? Move the islands closer to the mainland? Build a bridge? None of the above.

    Whilst we’re still in the EU, I would be interested to hear how well our case would go down at the European Courts of Justice in asking for a ‘fair deal’, especially as Europe seem to respect our existence. Also note that the OECD this month told George Osborne to start investing and stop cutting, so it would be interesting to see Europe’s response to a formal complaint by us to our settlement.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/oecd-austerity-george-osborne-fiscal-charter-public-spending-a6881131.html

    If this were 1947, post war Britain, I could see the merit in cutting right back on things. But it isn’t. It’s a government being choosy about how it spends its money, and it’s choosing wars and bankers over communities, and that’s not ok by me. How about we make a deal with Osborne that we cede any military protection from the UK? Per capita spending on defence in this country is £1066 per person, so for 2,200 people on Scilly the government spends £2,345,200 on the military. I’d rather have that per year and make a beautiful and peaceful community, ta.

    Maybe devolution is something we should be looking at.

  2. John Allsop February 27, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    We don,t like it because it has never been done,councils and goverments just borrow beyond their ability to pay the borrowed amout back, if there are financial problems, just borrow more. Obviously the coucil has to operate within the amount of income it receives. It has to consider all expenditure including high salaries for employees at the “top” why should people be paid far more than they need and people at the lower end pay for it.Why do some things get done without a need, Two visitors asked me what function do,s the “inovation centre have”, i didn,t know, another said they prefered the airport before it was improved as it did it,s function well. Then there are over runs on quoted works and the coucil pays it, why?. If it costs too much we can,t afford it. Then of course the coucil tax has to be increased and next year we can do the same and so on ,As far as the coucil appears to think there is no limit on what the population can pay. And of course the coucil will cut services not costs.

  3. Stuart Moore February 25, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Because of the size of the ios community, even if the council raised the council tax by the maximum permitted, it would only raise an additional £20k pa, which wouldn’t even make a scratch in the deficits.
    The hard truth is, the council are legally obliged to balance their books which means services WILL have to be cut, its that simple. You can all bitch, moan and whine about how you’d like this that and the other to be funded by public money, but there ain’t enough money to do it.

    Funding to local authority’s has been savagely by the current government in an idealogical drive to reduce the state. They say its to pay off the austerity debt created by the global banking crisis back in 2009, but that’s just bo**cks, This government hates the state and are going all out to reduce it as much as possible before they get voted out in 2020.
    What people fail to understand is that, its the state that provides things like the NHS, Doctors Dentists, Ambulances, Policemen, Firemen, Nursing homes, Care in the community, Library’s etc etc.

    However, every single council in the UK is being forced to cutback and out source all these services (if they can get away with it) so now care in the community on the mainland is run by private companies, and what do you think the main priority of these private companies is, the elderly they ‘care’ for, or profit for the shareholder?.
    It doesn’t take a genius to work that one out, but it does take lots of stupid people not to be able to make the connection between voting Tory and care homes and library’s being closed down.

    This could be solved overnight if HMG were to introduce a transaction tax on High frequency trading, which is nothing more than computer programs gambling at high speed many times a second, buying and selling shares. This produces no discernible product or service to anyone except the banks, creating them £bns of profit a day.
    By adding a 5% tax on each transaction there would be enough money to provide for all the care homes in the country, but the present government won’t do this because they receive a major portion of their funding from the banks, so much so, that you could be forgiven thinking that the Tory party is nothing more than the political wing of the banking industry.

    • Mike N February 25, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      Stuart – you forget that the banking crisis happened (in 2008, not 2009 as you state) under a Labour government, in large part due to deregulation and reduced scrutiny of the banking industry overseen by that Labour government (in the UK at least) and it was the Labour government which bailed out the banks.

      • Stuart Moore February 25, 2016 at 4:40 pm

        You’re right it was 08 not 09 as stated , forgive me for the fact that the 8 lives next to the 9 on the kyboard, my sincere and utter apologies.

        The deregulation of the banks happened under the Thatcher government and continued under the Blair/Brown government which publicly stated that they would continue with Tory party policy.
        The banks were probably bailed out because government (any government) has now become owned by big business. The fact that no one in the banking sector has ever been prosecuted in the UK for their part in the financial crisis would imho pay testament to that.

        The current prime minister has been in power for the last 7 years and has overseen the systematic dismantlement of the state, so you can’t really blame the Labour party for the gradual privatisation of the NHS and associate care services and a reduction in local government funding.

        And Adam, I’m sorry if I choose a long term career plan when I was 22 and have stayed with the same company that provides an essential service to not only this community but the entire country, when what I clearly should have done is become self employed and then moan about everyone else who doesn’t have to work 24/7 to make a living.

        My point is, you will all vote for who you vote for, but the fact is, the council is under increasing pressure to reduce spending and some services will have to be cut and this is due to reduced funding from central government.
        And it’s not just the ios council, this is happening to every single council in the UK.
        In some ways having a unitary authority has sheltered the islands from this harsh reality, unfortunately reality has now caught up with the ios.

        • Adam Morton, St.Martins February 25, 2016 at 7:10 pm

          Stuart, you spend your time spouting of your supposedly socialist rhetoric whilst benefiting from what is clearly a big business with a monopoly which probably pays the same amount of tax as all the other big businesses which then leave the government without enough revenue to support your alleged ideals. You that is ,that chooses to live on an island heavily subsidised by grant funding yet moans about off islands getting their equivalent amount of funding! If you are typical of socialists then no wonder they lost!

        • Morris February 25, 2016 at 11:52 pm

          My point is that whilst reality may be catching up with the council, it is the combination of reality coupled with the downright utter incompetence and mishandling by
          the present cohort that is spiraling this administration inexorably toward the rocks with the folorn figurehead firmly attached to the prow by the chain of office.
          Cast your mind back for just for one moment and imagine the ‘chamber theatrics’ that would have been on display from our present supreme leader if any of the many current crop of fiascos had taken place under a previous Chairman or CEO?
          This council is running on empty, depleted reserves and bereft of any discernable talent.
          We were sold a pup things were never ever this bad under the man they gave the order of the very expensive boot to!

          • Adam Morton, St.Martins February 26, 2016 at 9:08 am

            That shouldn’t be too surprising when the current CEO was chosen by the same councilors as before on a “trial by dinner buffet” ! Remember the U turn after employing an interim CEO on £750 a day ? The cock ups are just too many to remember.

    • Ewart Less February 25, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      If it was that straightforward and clearcut why didn’t Mr Brown do it years ago instead of raiding billions from all the profitable pension schemes, including those of communication workers as I recall?

    • Adam Morton, St.Martins February 25, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Saith he , working for a monopoly company with the best pension scheme in the country!Any time you care to sample the delights of providing privatised services at less than the cost a LA can provide , let me know!
      The public spending in England is set at about £8000 per person of which the IOSC handle around half directly in their annual budget. They then spend the rest on whatever crackpot scheme they fancy and we can’t do anything about it because they and their dependents outnumber any potential vote even in the unlikely event of unity! Council officers would have us believe that every time they get a grant , that they have pulled of some miracle rather than doing the job they are paid for!
      If you care to come down from your ivory tower for a moment you would know that being where it is, Scilly cannot afford the schemes you seem to approve of such as snazzy airport lounges and glistening innovation centers etc ,because it is needful of more essential services . By ignoring the transport situation , the Council has ensured that every one of its services will eventually become unaffordable and there will be no private sector there to pick up the pieces and do whats right for a lesser cost.
      Scilly has always had to make do on less and when some insist on operating mainland business models, pay rates or public services, it takes from the remainder.

    • saltsolution February 25, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      Question: Faced with a budget overspend in the current year of c. £500 per household, the Council should:

      (a) not worry because the electorate is waiting for the Torys to go, austerity to end and a High Frequency Traders Tax to come along, meaning that overspending is not a problem.

      (b) not worry because the budget at the start of the year was balanced and nobody is accountable for what happens during the year

      (c) not worry as there is no council plan to reduce spending to be within budget

      (d) not worry because it is public money and finance / numbers are just too complicated

      or

      (e) apologise for not keeping an eye on spending, acknowledge how wreckless this is in the face of upcoming funding cuts. Recognise that overspends today may mean greater impact from more severe cuts in the future than would have been necessary if budgets were prudently managed. Ask some searching questions about leadership and accountability.

      Answers below [1 Mark]

    • No Moore Stuart! February 26, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Stuart, you keeping saying banks – this is wrong. What you should say is Investment Banks or Retail Banks or Commercial Banks. Anyway it was Labour that destroyed the fiscal system by deleting the banking controls that were put in by the Tories. Labour also started taxing your pension scheme! Labour has done more damage than any other political party.

      • saltsolution February 26, 2016 at 10:56 pm

        Here is a little ditty to help Amanda and Theo learn from failures in the banking industry and lead the council during their current spending crisis.

        ——–

        A retail bank, RBS
        Found itself a terrible mess,
        After Fred acted brash
        And spent all the cash
        So the taxpayer rescued them, bless.

        There was a mortgage bank, northern rock
        Which saw all its depositors flock
        In queues outside branches
        They weren’t taking chances
        So the government rescued that crock

        There’s a ‘food bank’ thats part of co-op
        Which, lets face it, was a bit of a flop
        They went on a bender
        To be a big lender
        With poor leadership right at the top

        Before this investment bank, Lehman
        Went bust and left markets screaming,
        When the Fed told them ‘no!
        You’ve run out of dough!’
        And exceeded your borrowing ceiling!

        ———————————–

        The lesson for Amanda is clear
        STOP THEO’S OVERSPENDS YEAR AFTER YEAR!
        When you’ve run out of money
        It’s simply not funny
        And it ALWAYS ENDS BADLY…. you hear?

        • Madana February 27, 2016 at 7:49 pm

          She should be screaming stop but she’s lost her roar! Madam no longer has any control over her chosen one it must be maddening to her but hey what’s new!

  4. Madana February 25, 2016 at 12:15 am

    Perhaps an appropriate qualification and a semblance of budget control coupled with a proper recruitment system would allow the officer to be more effective at delivering what the community will continue to require of her function? CHAIRMAN time to start solving some of the significant problems YOU are responsible for creating!

  5. John Allsop February 24, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    Only around 500 per house hold. My pension won,t cover it.

    • saltsolution February 24, 2016 at 11:44 pm

      Dont worry John, we can hopefully get jobs selling refreshments to the community at the sports hall, theres a lot of crisps to be sold to make 78k profit needed to plug the gap. And afterwards everyone would need to go more often to keep trim. But wait! The unlimited use package will be cheaper, so islanders save money… and, the council income will fall again, meaning there is the possibility of doing even more of this sustainable enterprise stuff.

      Thank you to the councilors who are holding officers to account here. What a shambles Theo.

  6. saltsolution February 24, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Wouldn’t it be better to add up these overspends and increase Council tax? It’s only around £500 per household.

    • Margaret Keppler February 25, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      The sad truth is that some egocentric, rash and poorly advised councillors grabbed the reigns a couple of years ago and promptly threw the baby out with the bath water!
      Not one single thing has been handled properly since.
      What a dreadful mess everything is in now. God help us we are going down the road to nowhere and the pace is quickening.