27th May 2018
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Fear for services as new SIC financial plan debated

Cuts of 3.3 per cent a year are proposed in the council’s medium term financial plan put before councillors today.

Members of the policy and resources committee this morning had the chance to debate the  proposed cuts, for the 2017 to 2021 period, this morning with several raising concerns over the impact the move would have on services.

Although the Scottish government had expected local authorities to save three per cent, SIC executive manager of finance Jonathan Belford suggested 3.3 per cent was a realistic target in Shetland because the council was organised, had prepared well and was in “positive place”.

This was largely due to the council’s reserves, which stood at £241 million in March this year.

The meeting heard that if savings were not made the council would face a deficit of £32 million, but without the reserves it would be nearer £100 million.

Mr Belford said the reserves had been drawn on in a responsible way – in 2015/16, £7.2 million had been taken out but from 2016/17 it would be £12 million per year.

Included in his figures was the assumption of a one per cent annual pay rise for staff, “our greatest asset”, from 2016/17 onwards.

Councillors feared that services would not be delivered in the same way when cuts are introduced, and education vice-chairman George Smith said he was particularly concerned about education, and was “keen to examine all the options”.

His suggestion that council staff should go down from a 37-hour to a 35-hour week was rejected by corporate services manager Christine Ferguson, who said 37 hours was a nationally agreed figure and 35 hours would technically become part-time.

Mr Belford said: “The projections are based on the information available today to allow the council to plan for the future. By having a plan we can take action.”

• The full council will meet this afternoon to formally agree the plan. Full report in Friday’s Shetland Times.

About Rosalind Griffiths

I am a Shetland Times reporter covering news, including health stories, and features. I have been in Shetland for more than 30 years.

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10 comments

  1. Michael Garriock

    There should be little if any need to impact services, *IF* Councillors would finally step up and tackle the issue of a grossly bloated middle mangement and wasteful and unproductive working and Admin policies and procedures.

    When suits hiding behind desks have nothing better to do with their time than concoct and pursue from zero evidence purely fictional “issues”, which involve untold man-hours for themselves and numerous collegues, and repeatedly over months and years insist something to be fact, when they’ve be assured time and again it is not, yet fail to either provide evidence of their stance, nor enquire of the other party to provide evidence to support their’s, “could do better” is an understatement.

    If they can find the time and resources to play such silly games, such people are wholly superfluous and should be disposed of, and a much tighter (and cheaper) ship could, and needs to be run.

    Chop out the dead wood, but this time get someone from outside to quantify what and who that is, relying on internal sources as previously just creates a self-preservation attitude from those involved and their circle, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas after all.

    Reply
  2. John Tulloch

    Shetland’s education system is under-funded to the tune of, at least, £10Mpa – after 20 percent cuts – by the system set up by the Scottish government in which funds are distributed via COSLA on a “per pupil” as opposed to a “needs” basis.

    SNP Finance Minister John Swinney himself agreed only last year that this flawed system which diverts funds from rural areas to cities and densely-populated areas should continue, at least, into this year.

    This means that SIC oil reserves are, effectively, being siphoned away to the central belt while, up here, the next we’ll hear will be:

    “Oh, wir aafil soarry, fokk, bit I doot wi’ll hae ta close da skuyls eftir aa – hit’s aa ta dae wi dis ‘austerity’ an aa dat, you keen!”

    Reply
    • Jim Anderson

      Remind us, where do you stay?
      How often do you comment in your local press?
      Just curious.

      Reply
      • Steven Jarmson

        Jim,do you ever question where Robin Stevenson lives?
        Or if he’s ever been to Shetland?

      • John Tulloch

        Quite, Steven.

        Jim hasn’t challenged my point about Shetland’s education under-funding causing SIC oil reserves to be siphoned away to the central belt.

        Presumably, he accepts it?

      • Robin Stevenson

        John

        And you still haven’t challenged my point why Shetland [and every other Scottish council] have failed to return their “Overpayments” caused by the Council tax freeze?

        “However, the Scottish Parliament Research Centre (Spice) found the council tax freeze is actually “overfunded”.
        “In total, over the six years, this has resulted in an estimated £164.9 million extra going to local government as a result of the freeze.”

        http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-government-council-tax-freeze-over-funded-1-3895177

        Is it just a case of when you’re “overpaid” you keep quiet, but when you’re “underpaid” [in your mind] you like to shout it from the heavens?

      • John Tulloch

        Ah, here comes Robin Stevenson with the red herring!

        Thank you, no, Robin, the council tax issue applies to all councils whereas the under-funding of Shetland’s education system by between £10Mpa and £19.5Mpa since 2008 is an issue of unfairness in the allocation of Scottish government money due to COSLA allocating it on a “per pupil” as opposed to a “needs” basis, favouring cities and densely-populated areas while disadvantaging rural ones.

        This arrangement was endorsed by none other than SNP Finance Minister John Swinney last year and has led to cumulative under-funding of Shetland’s education system of between £70 million and £140 million since 2008, money which has had to be taken from the SIC’s oil reserves.

        Thus, SIC oil reserves are being siphoned away to SNP heartland in the central belt of Scotland by “stealth under-funding” – with John Swinney’s personal blessing!

  3. iantinkler

    I think Jim Anderson is at a lose for reasoned argument here, so he challenges John,s right to hold an opinion, because an expat Shetlander, with the comment , “Remind us, where do you stay?”. Such a negative and unconstructive a comment, shows is level of rational that is both unpleasant and very hollow. Jim have you a relevant observation or is negativity all you can offer? Just curious.

    Reply
    • Chris Johnston

      Ian, you are spot on. If I make an ad hominem attack on my opponent, I admit I cannot logically support my position.

      Full disclosure: I am a Yank by birth (first generation this side of the Pond) with Shetland and Orkney roots; my direct ancestor left Lunna in the 1850s. I have US and UK citizenship, and visit Shetland every three or four years.

      Shetland finances are so fractured (between the Council, various trusts, and other governmental and quasi-governmental bodies) that a review of the overall situation is impossible. A common financial tactic divides a sum of money into multiple piles and then portrays the sum as larger than it really is. A US bank tried this tactic many years ago by moving assets in and bad loans out of a branch just before the bank examiners were scheduled to visit the branch. The bank examiners put a stop to this by visiting all of the branches unannounced on the same day. The bank was found insolvent and corrective actions were made, without a loss to the depositors.

      I am not suggesting any fraud in the Shetland finances; I am suggesting that an overall review would be valuable.

      Reply
    • Shuard Manson

      Self Awareness FAIL?

      Reply

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