A £1 million Government grant to help with the costs of upgrades to essential financial and IT systems on the Isles of Scilly has been welcomed by West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas.
The grant, which has signed off by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid following approval of a business case, will go to the Council of the Isles of Scilly and be used to improve the council’s back-office systems and pay for a contract with Cornwall Council to provide on-going financial and IT support.
Mr Thomas says that since being elected, he has worked hard to convince Government ministers that Scilly is a special case with unique challenges.
Speaking at a parliamentary debate in February when he asked for a review of council funding on Scilly, Mr Thomas said: “The council is a stand-alone, single-tier unitary authority.
“It is in charge of public safety; it operates the airport on St Mary’s; it runs Park House care home, which is the only residential care home on the islands; and it maintains the islands’ swimming pool and other leisure facilities.
“It is the only local authority in England and Wales that also acts as a water authority, providing water to some 1,070 homes on St Mary’s and Bryher, as well as the sewerage infrastructure across St Mary’s.
“Unfortunately, the fact that it owns next to no public assets that can be used to raise council revenue makes fulfilling those responsibilities more difficult.”
Mr Thomas argued that the proposed allocation for Scilly in the local government financial settlement failed to take into account the unique nature of the unitary authority and the fact that Scilly residents have high needs but a very low council tax base.
Welcoming the recent decision by the Communities Minister, Mr Thomas said the money would make a big difference.
“Over the years, the council has worked extremely hard to become much leaner and more efficient, and it has probably become as lean as it possibly can, yet the pressure is on for it to make further savings, remain viable and ensure that it delivers a sustainable future for the islands,” he said.
“This grant will help the hard-pressed council to ensure it has financial and IT systems that are fit for purpose and give them the support they need from the mainland.”
Derek Thomas, with assistant Primrose Brechtmann, welcomes Amanda Martin, chair of the Council of the Isles of Scilly, and chief executive Theo Leijser to Westminster.