The specific challenges facing the Isle of Wight need to be considered in future government funding, a Treasury minister has told Island MP Bob Seely yesterday during a parliamentary debate.
Replying during an ‘economy of the UK islands’ debate, treasury minister Robert Jenrick said that the government needed to think about the Island when looking at new funding formulas and Bob was right to continue to highlight the issue.
Bob told MPs that the Island was ambitious and a success but it was not getting its ‘fair share’ from the Government to fund public services and develop the economy and infrastructure. He said that the Island needs £6 million more a year and explained Scottish islands receive that amount of money.
“The Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland get an extra £6 million a year… in acknowledgement of the fact that supplying Government services on islands tends to cost more than it does on the mainland. The Isle of Wight gets none of that money, despite the fact that we have a population four times bigger than that of the Western Isles, for example, and two, three or four times bigger than that of Orkney, Shetland and other islands.
“So, we do not get our fair share, and when it comes to “fair” funding we are unfairly funded. The central reason for that is simple: it is the Solent. Government funding systems are not designed to deal with isolation by water. The rural isolation grant and the rural farming grants are all predicated on a sense of isolation, but isolation on land and not isolation by water.... a fair funding formula needs to take into account isolation by water.”
He added: “The amount of money we would ask for from central Government to make the Island even more of a success is really very small. I would love to sit down and have that conversation with the minister in greater detail.”
The minister replied: “The Government must think carefully about how we can assist it (the Isle of Wight) in delivering public services and ensuring its economy continues to grow.
“With the exception of the Isles of Scilly, it is unique—in England, at least—and we need to think about that when preparing new formulas for schools, local government, policing and other matters.”
The minister said he would consider with Bob the issues raised at a later date. He also said that the Government had invested in the Island with money for improved roads, that Island schools would soon receive an extra £2.2 million due to the fairer funding formula and millions had been invested in digital infrastructure to improve broadband speeds.
Speaking after the debate, Bob, who is chair of the Island All Party Parliamentary Group, said: “Myself and the Island’s council will continue to make the case for fairer funding to ministers so we can receive a better deal for Islanders. I was pleased the minister acknowledge the Island’s unique position and has publicly said he is willing to discuss a way forward.”