Editorial: The Old Rock 18.09.09

Apologies for coming over all sensible; it is not in keeping with the spirit of the times. But when making policy, surely it would be a good idea to look into the consequences of what is proposed. That is the first thing to say about the rash decision by councillors this week to spend £500,000 a year giving a £300 winter heating grant to those over the age of 65 who will lose out on their Christmas bonus this year.

Where is the money to come from to pay for this? Finance chief Graham Johnston told councillors slippage meant there would be wriggle room to meet the commitment this year, but after that it will come at the expense of other things. Might it have been worth considering what those “other things” may have to be? Apparently not. And what about the tax position? The reason the Christmas bonus has been scaled back and will now be handed out only to the most needy is to avoid a whopping big bill from the tax man for Shetland Charitable Trust. The councillors who voted for this grant on Wednesday could not even be bothered to wait to establish the tax status of such a grant.

Now we come to the fundamentals. Why are we handing out this money to people who don’t need it? Why did the council not consider giving a fuel grant of, say, £600 to those in poverty? According to sponsor Cecil Smith pride prevented many people claiming the Christmas bonus. Where is the evidence for this? And why would they feel differently towards a council handout?

Isn’t it also rather odd that a majority of councillors felt compelled to make up for the loss of the Christmas bonus with this grant? As trustees of the charitable trust, they had made the decision on the bonus. What a wonderful world it is where you can take away with one hand and give with the other.

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With an investigation going on, it would be wrong to make comment on the situation involving council chief executive David Clark and councillor Jonathan Wills. But why has arguably the most serious issue here, the “deletion” of assistant chief executive Willie Shannon’s job, been put on the backburner by councillors? Mr Shannon deserves a speedy resolution to his case lest the council wish to see its reputation further tarnished.


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