‘No room for complacency over SIC budget’

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Shetland Islands Council is expected to save an extra £5.6 million from its budget for 2013/14 – but it will still need to raid the reserves to balance the budget.

Members of the council’s executive committee were told of the figure at a meeting on Monday.

The council’s original budget for the financial year was about £133 million, but it is instead predicted to come in at about £127 million.

However, despite the saving the council still needs to draw on its reserves for funds.

This was initially budgeted at nearly £28 million for the financial year, or £76,000 a day.

Members were told on Monday this would be more like £23 million or £63,000 daily.

Gary Robinson gave a cautious welcome to the budget news.

Gary Robinson gave a cautious welcome to the budget news.

SIC leader Gary Robinson welcomed the savings but warned the council should not be complacent.

“My big concern [with the schedule of savings] all along has been we might fall behind and I think that would be deeply worrying if indeed we did,” said Mr Robinson.

He added there was “a lot of uncertainty” coming the council’s way with further cuts to local authorities expected beyond 2015/16.

“From my point of view I think it’s important we reach the end of this council in good shape and able to take on those challenges as and when they come.”

But the savings should not be seen as a “windfall”, he said.

“We have achieved this by largely bringing forward next year’s savings into the current financial year which I think will help us immensely – we will be able to spread the budget reductions across two financial years rather than having a big hit in one year.”

At the outset of this council, the local authority had too many staff, said Mr Robinson and the position was unsustainable

He said the council had “worked very diligently” with unions and staff to reduce the number of workers.

Staff numbers peaked in 2010, he said, when the council had more than 2,800 full-time staff.

This has now been reduced to about 2,300.

In December last year, it was the first time the council’s monthly wage bill had dropped below £6 million a month since December 2009.

Mr Robinson said he hoped the draw on reserves of £63,000 a day would be reduced further by the end of the financial year.

The figure had already been reduced from £100,000 a day.

He said by the end of this council, the SIC was aiming to be living within its means.

This would mean spending no more than £7 million a year from reserves.

This would be the income from reserves, rather than the capital and income which the council is spending at the moment.

About Adam Guest

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as a senior news reporter at The Barnsley Chronicle and as a freelance reporter for The Doncaster Free Press. Alongside news reporting I specialise in music and sports journalism. Pork pie lover.

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