Council Chairman Robert Francis met Government ministers on Tuesday to brief them on the challenges facing services for the community and the unique financial challenges for the Council of the Isles of Scilly.
The meetings, attended by the Council’s Chairman, Interim Chief Executive (Mark Boden) and Chief Financial Officer (Russell Ashman), marked the beginning of talks with government on a range of funding and public services issues for the islands.
The Council’s representatives and local MP Derek Thomas met with Jake Berry MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; and Nick Hurd MP, Minister of State at the Home Office.
The case was made that the Government’s system for funding Councils based on population does not work fairly for the Isles of Scilly and has resulted in public services being significantly underfunded. In particular, Council spending on the fire service amounts to £460,000 annually, with just £25,000 funding coming from government. The Chairman also raised the issue of social and affordable housing and the difficulties in building much needed new housing and maintaining existing stock, caused by high costs and lack of funding.
There was recognition from the Ministers that Scilly faces a unique set of challenges and a commitment to look into all of the matters raised. There was also agreement that the forthcoming review of local government funding presents an opportunity to find new ways of funding public services for the islands.
Meetings scheduled to discuss the vital issue of transport were unfortunately cancelled and the Council is working with government to rearrange these as soon as possible.
Robert Francis said: “This was a valuable opportunity to put Scilly’s case to decision-making ministers who would not otherwise be aware of our particular circumstances. The two Ministers listened carefully, fully appreciating and accepting our arguments. They both undertook to work with us in order to find solutions outside the constraining formulas previously applied to Scilly which may have worked for other Authorities but clearly put us at a disadvantage.”
“We will be following this work up hard in the coming weeks and I have every confidence in a successful conclusion. There are now three Ministerial visits to Scilly scheduled this summer focusing on our key issues and opportunities.”
Derek Thomas MP for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly commented: “There is no doubt that together we have convinced Ministers that central policies and funding formulas should not be applied to Scilly. It is now for Ministers and civil servants to find a way to adequately fund and support Scilly towards a more prosperous, resilient and connected community and I for one will continue to press for this across Whitehall.”