Letter to the Editor of the Isle of Wight County Press
23 April 2021.
The text as it was submitted.
Bob Seely complains (County Press Letters) that there are “unsubstantiated claims” that he has failed to deliver on the island deal. Whoever or whatever is responsible, and I do not say, nor do I believe, that there is any fault or failure on the part of Mr Seely, the promised "Island Deal" has not been delivered.
The issue turns on the terms of a study by the University of Portsmouth in 2015. This Document, entitled “Impact on Physical Separation from the UK Mainland on Isle of Wight Public Service Delivery”. Is not about Ryde Railway Pier. It is not about Island Line. It is not about the NHS. It is about public service delivery by the Isle of Wight Council. It is about money in the control of the Isle of Wight Council to be used on those services, not infrastructure, not healthcare but the funding of the day-to-day responsibilities of the Island’s Council. The other things are all laudable but do not touch on the subject of the study.
I have not found a copy of the study online. I do know that it was paid for by Isle of Wight Council and cost £37750. Mr Seely clearly has seen it as he referred to it extensively before a parliamentary committee in 2018 (Hansard 11:00 16 January 2018)
The University of Portsmouth broke down those extra costs into three. The first is forced self-sufficiency—the lack of spill-over of public goods provision to and from neighbouring authorities. We have an obligation to provide a service on the Island, but sometimes we cannot share costs with the mainland. The fire service is an example of that. The second extra cost is the island premium, which refers to the additional cost of conducting business on and with the Isle of Wight. For the provision of public services, that may refer to the relatively higher prices that may be charged by contractors or reflected in the price of goods and services. We try to be as competitive as possible but, clearly, within a confined space there are limits. The third extra cost is what the university has described as “dislocation”—the costs associated with physical and perceived separation from the mainland. Sometimes referred to as “isolation”, it is a common characteristic of all islands, and it is seen in terms of small area, small population and small market.
All of the examples given are good ones but none of them are funded by Southwest Trains or the NHS or from ring-fenced funds provided for the long overdue Ryde Pier project.
The proposed island deal is a necessary levelling of the playing field to enable the Isle of Wight Council to fund and perform its responsibilities unhampered by restrictions that do not apply to other councils. For whatever reason the money promised by Boris Johnson is still outstanding.