‘Significant’ costs of planning for new Eric Gray centre

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“Significant” fees are needed to support a new Eric Gray Centre, according to health and social care chief Simon Bokor-Ingram.

Members at a meeting of the council’s social services committee and the Shetland Health and Social Care Partnership were told of the need on Monday morning.

Mr Bokor-Ingram highlighted the planning and architect fees associated with the new centre as one of the cost pressures for the committee. The service is projected to underspend by a total of about £1.9 million –£693,000 on revenue and £1.26 million on capital projects.

Last month about 20 councillors and supporters gave the council a hearty round of applause as plans to build a replacement centre were ushered through a meeting of the full council.

Councillors approved a motion by social work chairman Cecil Smith, seconded by Allison Duncan for a rigorous timescale for building a 1,800-square-metre replacement centre at the Seafield hockey pitch.

The new building will be designed with wheelchairs in mind, with corridors wide enough to allow two chairs to pass and specially-designed toilets.

Finance director James Gray told councillors that the money to build the centre would be borrowed, but the pay back would have to come from departments’ revenue budgets and directorate savings.

The projected cost of the the building is £4.5 million. Plans had been drawn up previously for a new centre. Mr Bokor-Ingram said those plans were being taken into account.“We are using what we’ve got but we need to take this to the next level,” he said.

“I understand there was planning for a new Eric Gray to a point, we need to take that now to a final point where we’re able to start the actual build. So there are more fees … that’s how it works and they are significant.”

Simon Bokor-Ingram has been appointed director of community health and social care.

Simon Bokor-Ingram: “We have got challenges in a number of areas”.

Mr Bokor-Ingram said he would look to use the committee’s “fortuitous underspend” to pay for planning costs.

“What I’d want to do is pay for the fees in this year, with fortuitous underspend  -which means that the overall cost that I’m then left with in terms of having to borrow and finance is slightly less – because that’s going to be a long term cost pressure on the directorate.”

He added: “The more I can reduce that cost pressure by, the better for service delivery because that’s going to impact somewhere.”

External funding was considered, he said, but he needed to be planning for if there was no other funding, and there was “a full cost to deal with”.

“Therefore anyway that I can reduce the future revenue cost of borrowing then I need to,” he said.

The social services chief also spoke about staffing pressures and the difficulty in recruiting workers.

“We have got challenges in a number of areas,” said Mr Bokor-Ingram.

“The care at home service, particularly in Lerwick, is under some pressure because of some vacancies.

“We are finding recruitment really challenging. Unemployment is running at, we are told, less than one per cent. There are lots of alternative employment opportunities for individuals.”

• For more on the recruitment issue, see The Shetland Times, 22nd August edition.

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