MEMBERS DISAGREE OVER ISLANDS' PARTNERSHIP FUNDING
Members were split on whether to award £15,000 to the Islands' Partnership at Thursday's Full Council meeting.
Cllrs Ted Moulson and Gaz O'Neill were very much in favour of the funding - or a lesser amount - while Cllr Steve Sims likened the cash-strapped Council giving the IP money to "Mali underwriting the IMF".
It is included in the Council's savings that it will not reinstate the £46,000 it has given to the IP for the last two years to subsidise the operation of the TIC. This was agreed as part of a list of savings earlier in the meeting.
However, the subject of the Islands' Partnership arose again in a later agenda item aimed at reviewing the Council's funding contribution to the organisation in the next financial year.
The IP provided a list of 11 suggestions for the Council to consider, starting with 'reinstatement of the £15,000 financial contribution to the IP' (an annual contribution that ceased in 2015/16) and 'that the Council provides a minimum £20,000 subsidy to ensure that the current TIC service is maintained and remains financially viable'.
Other options were that a fully funded member of the Council staff be seconded to the IP team, that the Council extend its peppercorn rent for the Porthcressa Shelter and that the Council provides an interest free loan of an additional £10,000 on 1st April to be paid back by 31st December.
After ascertaining that only four of the 11 options were possible or legal, Members were asked to choose between them.
Cllr Fran Grottick said: “In view of the pressures that this Authority currently has to cope with, I cannot in all conscience vote for money going to tourism when we might be thinking of cutting services to children or vulnerable members of our community.
"If we carry on giving them the TIC at a peppercorn rent [of £99 per year] we are actually contributing quite a lot of money, I would suggest £25,000 that they might have to pay for a facility such as that in that location."
Cllrs Andrew Combes and Andy Guy agreed, with the latter saying: “It’s regrettable we are in this situation but it is not viable to fund this £15,000, that’s all I can say."
However, Cllr O'Neill said that he was in favour of a small payment - be it £15,000, £10,000 or £5,000 - and suggested that there were a number of areas in the medium term where there are cuts under consideration where £15,000 could be found. He also pointed out that a payment of £10,000 or 15,000 would "soften the blow" of the previous decision not to continue with the TIC subsidy.
Cllr Ted Moulson said: "I still believe very strongly that we should reinstate this payment." He pointed out that much of the IP's grant funding is ring-fenced and suggested that not reinstating the payment would be "sending the wrong signal to the tourism industry as a whole on the islands".
Town Hall Head of Finance Diana Mompoloki clarified that the IP has a budget of £567,000 through various grants and subscriptions - although the £46,000 cut for the TIC would reduce that figure. "There are alternative funding streams for the IP," she said.
Cllr Steve Sims said: "I have seen the IP's accounts and they are in a substantially better position than this Council and I actually think us giving them £15,000 is essentially like Mali offering to underwrite the IMF. We haven't got any money and they have quite a lot of money and £15,000 is virtually a position in council that we may have to let go. I would very much not like to see this money reinstated."
He added: "The Council does provide considerable services to the IP already. Certainly their IT is maintained by the Council, there are various things they get which I suspect could be worth substantially more than £15,000 a year."
Cllr Gaz O'Neill then reiterated his position, saying: "I’d just like to say I hear and fully accept what Members are saying, but we’re starting to sound as an Authority like we're saying 'we give [the IP] this, we give them that, what more do they want?'
"And so we should [give them those things]! It's promoting tourism and without tourism we all suffer. And if the end goal is to promote tourism and bring more people to these magical islands and spend money, then I’m all for it."
He went on to propose a recommendation to award £10,000 to the IP, to be reviewed annually. The vote was tied 4 -4, with Cllrs Moulson, Richard McCarthy and O'Neill asking that their votes in favour be recorded.
It was left to Cllr Martin to give, effectively, a casting vote. She said: "I think we can all concur that tourism is vital to the success of the islands. I am very conscious of the budget pressures we are under as a Council." She voted not to make the payment, saying afterwards: "I want to make it clear in casting the vote the way I have done it is because I am mindful of the budget pressures on this Authority and not because I don’t support tourism."
Cllr Sims then proposed that the Council agree to extend the license to operate the TIC from the Porthcressa Shelter at a peppercorn rent. The proposal was agreed by all Members except Cllr Avril Mumford, who had declared an interest as an IP member.