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Isle of Wight County Press Questions

May 6, 2015 9:22 AM

Education

Question:- How can education standards and expectations be raised on the Isle of Wight?

Good funding - Keep and extend the pupil premium to help disadvantaged pupils, with a larger premium for early years. Rule out profit-making schools, and only fund new mainstream schools in areas requiring extra places. Keep it local, always allow local authorities to select the school sponsor.

Good teaching - Make sure a fully qualified teacher teaches every class, at last count there were over 50 Island teachers who weren't.

Good leadership - Strengthen school leadership and governance, by ensuring rapid support and intervention to help guarantee that all schools become good or outstanding schools. Expand the Talented Head Teachers programme and help move top leaders to the areas of most need. Increase the number of Teaching Schools i.e. centres of excellence teaching able to support other schools.

Greater support - pair an underperforming Island school with an outstanding school, so the outstanding school's senior management team can share details of their best practice. In 13 years as a school governor, I have seen this direct school-to-school support work really well, in one instance the 5 A-C pass rate increased by 30% in a year. Given the current state of Island schools, this may even mean help from mainland schools.

Prosperity

Question:- What can be done to help improve the Island's prosperity. Facilities, jobs and services are being lost. What would you do to put us on a par with the rest of the South East?

Keep the Island open - Britain is a major global economy, we must work to promote open markets and free trade, both within the European Union and beyond it. Only as a full member of a reformed European Union that we can be certain Britain's businesses will have access to markets in Europe and beyond.

Devolve economic decisions making to local areas and away from national government, a possible city-deal centred on the unitary authorities of Southampton, Portsmouth and the Island, could release millions locked in Whitehall to help develop the local economy.

Community investments program - have a programme of capital investment ideas that that could be used to maximum contributions from developers.

Increase funding sources - facilitate new entrants to the business banking sector in particular, encourage the growth of crowd funding and alternative finance models, and promote a new community banking sector to support SMEs and social enterprises.

Reform business tax to keep it competitive and make SMEs the priority for any business tax cuts. Review business rates, which are a disproportionate burden on smaller businesses, with the aim of moving to simpler Site Value Rating tax within five years.

Travel

Question:- Do you think Islanders deserve a better ferry service and if so, how would you help them get it? Should the Island have a fixed link to the mainland?

The best answer is to improve the ferry service and not have a fixed link.

The fixed link question arises every few years on the Island, but never on the mainland. Therein lies the practical problem, which local mainland authority wishes to have the infrastructure for a fixed link, on current local plans none of them.

Also I do not believe the toll costs of any such link would be cheaper and I do not believe that given the state of the country's finances a toll-free link would be built.

The big question is how to improve the ferry service?

The basic economic fact is that the price and frequency of ferry sailings depends of the volume of traffic crossing the Solent.

So I believe that a fresh approach is required, one that concentrates on the issue of improving the attractiveness of the Island to tourists and business alike and combines that with being a critically constructive friend of the ferry companies and pointing out ways in which to improve the quality of their service offering.

I believe this approach would have a real chance of succeeding whereas the approaches of the past have not.

Local Government

Question:- Should the Isle of Wight Council merge with a mainland authority to save money?

The council should not merge with another authority to save costs; Island Councillors should always run the island.

However, there is greater scope to reduce costs by sharing back-office functions such as procurement, accounting, human resources etc. This is something that other councils neighbouring councils already do.

In the medium term, it is possible for a 'city-deal' that centres on the three unitary authorities of Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. City deals give powers and funding currently exercised by central government directly to local authorities,

The IW Council needs have a much greater emphasis on generating income from other sources The Local Government Association has various best practice case studies on their website highlighting ways that councils across the country have generated extra income, it calls such authorities Entrepreneurial Councils.

The various methods used include property acquisition, providing a WiFi service, 'Council Advertising Network' improves income from digital advertising, selling internal council services commercially and so on. My experience has been part of council that replaced the central government grant cut with property rental income.

To save funds and provide better services the IW Council should pro-actively devolve more local facilities to Town & Parish Councils.

Health

Question:- What should be done to protect NHS services, particularly those on the Isle of Wight, as it faces ongoing funding challenges?

Properly fund it - The main way to protect the NHS on the Island and the rest of England. NHS England has estimated that by 2020 there will be an £8 billion funding gap. This is why the Lib Dems have committed that the current budget will rise by at least inflation and that on top of that to fund the NHS £8 billion extra per year by 2020.

Set multi-year budgets that the NHS can plan appropriately to maintain and improve the current standard of services, including keeping waiting times down.

As part of any city-deal based on the three unitary authorities of Southampton, Portsmouth and the Island, the care and community health budgets and operations should merge to use back-office cost savings to provide a better frontline service. Even before that the IW council and Island NHS services should look for a greater degree of interworking to improve patient care.

Deliver genuine parity of esteem between mental and physical health, with better access standards for mental health services.

Access to the NHS services should be on the basis on clinical need and not on ability to pay and it should always remain free at the point of delivery.

Policing

Question:- Hampshire Police Federation has warned about the impact of cuts on policing on the Isle of Wight, including fears we could lose bobbies on the beat. What would you do to protect local policing from future cuts.

The police budgets are under threat and therefore the emphasis should be on prevention with three specific measures:-

  1. Establish a National Institute of Crime Prevention to cut crime with better policing
  2. Cut crime with specialist 'drug courts' that get addicts back on the straight and narrow
  3. Reform prisons to focus on turning offenders away from a life of crime

Neighbourhood Policing - keeping Officers on the frontline and building stronger links with the community, it's the best way to tackle all crime. The Police and Crime Commissioner has missed a trick by not expanding Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) use, through a scheme where Town & Parish Councils pay half the cost of an officer for that council's area. Where used this scheme has worked well to keep a street presence.

Better & smarter technology - working in this area I know being smarter with technology is essential to reduce administration to get Officers deployed in the rights areas to tackle crime.

Greater cooperation - Police tackle law enforcement, but team working with the community and other agencies is essential. Therefore, the pubs and clubs should be charged extra if issues caused by drink require extra policing.