28th September 2016
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Councillors condemn ‘worst settlement’ as budget agreed

Councillors have today agreed a “balanced budget” despite hefty cuts in the settlement from the Scottish government that sees the SIC grant down about 5.1 per cent compared with some other Scottish council grant cuts of 1.5 per cent.

The budget agreed by the SIC includes a mandated freeze in council tax, £1m to be spent specifically on adult social care and maintaining a nationally agreed pupil/teacher ratio. Breaching any of these conditions, which apply to all Scottish local authorities, would see the council’s money chocked back by another £1.5m.

The council’s capital grant has seen the biggest reduction from £7.363m for 2015/16 to £5.535m in 2016/17, although another £1.25 million will be added to this over the course of three years.

SIC finance executive manager Jonathan Belford told the council that “we as a local authority have received the biggest cut, the worst that any local authority will receive for 2016/17. But that will get worse if we do not accept the conditions of the grant.”

Altogether, the council has been left with a £9.3m hole to fill when reduced grants and less than expected income from Shetland Gas Plant are offset against increased wages. Mr Belford said it had taken a major effort to create a budget based on these figures. This had been done by reducing the costs of services and contingencies and increasing income from SIC resources.

This includes a two per cent increase in council rents and an additional £1 a week increase in one and two bedroom properties.

 

“I am hugely disappointed that a cash increase from Westminster has translated into a £350m cut [across all local authorities] from the Scottish government.” GARY ROBINSON

The figures are worse than those contained in finance secretary John Swinney’s December announcement once extra “detail” emerged about what exactly each council will be awarded.

Gary Robinson

Gary Robinson warned of the difficulties to be faced by the council and the community.

Leading the debate on the budget SIC leader Gary Robinson said that he did “not believe anyone in this room has any illusions about how difficult this will be for this council and this community.”

Mr Robinson added: “I am hugely disappointed that a cash increase from Westminster has translated into a £350m cut [across all local authorities] from the Scottish government.”

He blamed the reduced budget on the failings of centralising Police Scotland and an expensive failed NHS computer system. He said it was clear the SIC had suffered since the “fine detail” had emerged and that Shetland’s settlement had put the lie to headlines of much lesser cuts being imposed elsewhere.

But he congratulated the council on working hard to make the books balance despite the financial pressures being faced.

The council resisted an attempt to have a £6m replacement ferry for Papa Stour removed from the Budget Book for 2016/17. Mr Robinson said it was essential the Scottish government be presented with the financial challenges faced by the council.

An amendment tabled by North Isles councillor Gary Cleaver to have the replacement Eric Gray Centre removed from the budget and put through the procedural “Gateway” process was later withdrawn in view of the “mood in the chamber”.

• More on the budget in Friday’s Shetland Times.

AboutPeter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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9 comments

  1. Gordon Harmer

    There is a Scottish Election just around the corner, this will be the time to tell the SNP Scottish Government we want no truck with them or their austerity policies.

    Reply
  2. john irvine

    This is the SNP for you.

    Are the Scottish public naive enough to continue voting for a party who will end up dragging not only Scotland but the UK as a whole into the mire?

    Reply
  3. Gordon Harmer

    This is typical of the bullying SNP. Instead of listening to the real concerns of the councils they threaten them in a bid to get them to kowtow to their austerity plans.
    Never mind about the disabled people, the elderly, the vulnerable children hit by cuts to social services and welfare budgets caused by the SNP’s unfair funding… they do not matter as long as everyone in Scotland bows down to the SNP.
    They claim to be progressive but they are opportunists with one thing on their mind…independence.

    Reply
  4. John Tulloch

    If Shetland’s funding is being cut by 5 percent while other councils funds are reduced by 1.5 percent it must be clear to the SIC that OIOF is at best performing a rearguard action to cover a rapid retreat and a new strategy is called for.

    A new strategy will require access to up-to-date statistics on the Shetland economy.

    Sadly, the SIC’s 2010 “Input-Output Study” needs urgent updating as the amount Shetland receives in government funding has changed dramatically, onshore oil activity has boomed and is now about to collapse and the fish processing industry is suffering due to Russian sanctions on the EU.

    Given the current relative prosperity of the fishing (boats) and the level of onshore oil-related activity, the amount paid to government must also have changed significantly, to the extent that Shetland has very likely been a net contributor, even without considering offshore oil taxation and revenue and is now about to suffer.

    Similarly, the then excellent 1978 Nevis Report on the consequences of various constitutional alternatives is now hopelessly out of date and needs updating to take account of changes in EU structure and legislation and UK law, notably, the British Overseas Territories Act, 2002.

    Reply
  5. Ian Tinkler

    How typical of the SNP. Blame Westminster austerity, for every ill, yet now, with power to raise tax themselves, they decline and inflict their own type of austerity. Far too afraid of loosing a few votes, let the underprivileged and elderly suffer, how very timid, how very hypercritical, how very SNP.

    Reply
  6. ALAN SKINNER

    Why do the SNP hate Shetland so much? Is it simply because we have not voted for them historically? Is it because we have cash reserves that they cannot get their hands on? Are they simply going to force us into spending those reserves, because of jealousy? Do they want to see rural school closures and the destruction of island communities? They are demonstrating a very strong “we don’t understand them, let’s destroy them” attitude, which I would associate more with the Tory party or Trump’s Republicans.
    I do hope that Messrs Carmichael and Scott are protesting vigorously, and that Danus Skene, when he recovers from his unfortunate illness, is begging for a level playing field and an understanding of the unique nature of Shetland.

    Reply
    • Ali Inkster

      I went to an snp meeting in the late 80s and they had an eye on wir resources even then. The Shetland movement was still on the go and the snp had made many empty promises that when questioned away from Shetland they promptly announced they were going to screw us out of the oil and fish as “that belongs to scotland”.

      Reply
  7. alma isbister

    Discriminated by the SNP for no voting for them,thats shetlands punishment. Its a mercy jimmy krankie and her party didnt get the yes vote or scotland would be in some mess now. Would Cameron open the westminister purse strings to help the oil industry if we were independent. I think we all know the answer to that!!!

    Reply
  8. iantinkler

    The number of qualified teachers working in Scotland’s nurseries has fallen by nearly a third (29%) over the decade, according to a new study. All that before the SNP cuts to local authorities.
    Firstly failing Scottish Universities, now Scottish nurseries
    I list University colleges in the rUK with courses Science (STEM) in the World (Global) Top Ten:
    Cambridge University.
    Oxford University,
    Imperial College London.
    University College London.
    King’s College London. (KCL).
    Manchester University.
    Royal Veterinary College,
    London School of Economics (LSE)
    This list is not definitive nor comprehensive but these colleges spring to mind, sadly no Scottish College or University features in top ten world ranking (sciences). With the present SNP/SG savaging of our Schools sadly we will go nowhere but downhill. What a shame with such a proud tradition of Science and technology in Scotland, we are how led by a bunch of Scientific illiterates called the SNP.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-35554308

    Reply

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