TESTIMONIALS

Councillor Jonathan Bacon - Leader of the Isle of Wight Council

I am very pleased to be able to be involved in the announcement of the 'Fight for the Wight' campaign; this will play a crucial part in securing proper funding for the Island in future years, from central government.

On Wednesday 24 February the Isle of Wight Council set its budget for the next financial year. I am afraid to say that due to continued reductions in government funding, together with the £50 million savings we have already had to make over the past five years, further reductions of our cherished and often essential discretionary local services have been necessary this year in order to balance our budget. I'm sure that you may be angry about this. I am.

I know that there are some services that will be lost, which are important to many of you; and I am particularly sorry that we have had no choice other than to do this.

Those who work in the council, whether elected Members or officers, didn't stand for election or enter their jobs to be in this position. All of us are passionate about supporting the Island's community and it is both saddening and maddening that this is the situation we find ourselves in.

You will have seen in the County Press in recent weeks that our intensive efforts to lobby the government to provide the Isle of Wight with a better financial deal, based upon: our unique circumstances of being an Island, with a high population of older people, and various other challenges; fell on deaf ears. We have received no additional commitment of funds from government. We do have some hope, in that a review of local government funding has been promised, with an undertaking to look at the 'unique costs' that the Island faces.

This is why I hope that the 'Fight for the Wight' campaign will gather support from across the Island and beyond, from all those who value and want to show their support for the place where we live. This is not just about the council or the many services it provides, but it is about us taking action to sustain our community and support the values that we hold dear.

I hope you can support the campaign so that together, we can show those who need to know what this Island is all about, and in doing so help to create a better future for us all.

Alan Marriott - Editor of the Isle of Wight County Press

You would have to be pretty hard-hearted to not be affected by the stories the County Press has been running over the last few years about council cuts.

To see village bus services, libraries, public toilets and sports centres have funding withdrawn is bad enough.

But when you get down to the bone, as we seem to be now, and services such as Westminster House, The Wednesday Club, The Adelaide and Gouldings are under threat, and council staff are losing their jobs at an alarming rate, it is plain to see that something is going very wrong.

That is why the County Press is putting its weight behind this effort to get something done.

There may be very differing views politically for why we are where we are, but nontheless it is the people of the Island who are suffering, in countless ways, and it would be very wrong if the Island's newspaper did not stand alongside the council in this fight we cannot afford to lose.

John Burrows - chief executive officer, Wightlink Ferries

Through both our business activity and our sponsorship and support programme, Wightlink is very much a part of Island life. As such, we are aware both of the virtues of living in such a great place but also of the challenges faced by the local community.

Being able to sustain and develop public services and facilities is a vital part of building a prosperous future for the Island and we look forward to playing a positive part in this campaign.

REAL PEOPLE - REAL STORIES

Paul, 39 from Wootton

My wife is from the Island; she had a great childhood here, which we wanted to give our children too. But, the logistics of being here make life difficult.

When I worked in London, I earnt £55k+. The equivalent job in Southampton pays around half of that. However, when you factor in the journey time and cost for me to do my job, I pay around the same I was to commute into the capital each day, and I'm out of the house for 12 hours+ each day.

Working in London would mean missing my children, but working down south & paying so much for travel (bus & ferry) makes the nice life we moved for, much harder to achieve.

Kate, 63 from Newport

We used to be known as the 'Garden Isle', but nowhere looks remotely green and pleasant anymore. The Island is full of scruffy, rundown looking areas, and not a public plant pot in sight.

When you consider that our economy is driven by tourism, this just isn't reflected by local spending. I appreciate that the council simply doesn't have the budgets to do this anymore; that there are more 'important' things it needs to spend its money on, but tourism is our main industry on the Island, and I dread to think what tourists coming here must think.

It's an embarrassment.