Cuts of £3 million to the economic development budget, agreed at a meeting last Thursday, are necessary to ensure financial stability and certainty, according to the development committee’s chairman Alistair Cooper.
The cuts, which were by far the most significant within the development directorate – also comprising planning, transport planning, and community planning and development – are a reduction of more than 50 per cent for the department, and will be implemented if ratified by the full council later this month.
Following the meeting, Mr Cooper explained that uncertainty over the council’s finances had led to a poorer level of engagement with industry in recent times.
“Businesses have not been engaging with economic development to the same extent as historically” he said, “and part of the reason for that is they’re not really sure where the council is coming from or where it’s going. They’re not really sure whether the council has money or not.
“So I think we have to re-establish our relationship with industry, so we can help them to help themselves.”
Though severe, Mr Cooper added, the reduction in funding was the best way to improve that relationship and to create a more secure financial future.
“ We’ve gone for getting the grief all over in one year” he said, “and we’re going to march out of it with a different type of economic development, I think, but we’re going to try and provide some sort of stability for the rest of this council”.
• How the budget cut could affect the aquaculture industry, see this week’s Shetland Times.