There is no doubt that the elected members and management of the SIC face a very challenging task in the next few years. The financial constraints which will be forced upon them will require some brave and unpopular decisions to be made.
Some of the problem can be attributed to the global economic downturn, but it seems to us that the biggest problem facing the SIC is the actual wages bill. Almost all of the annual government grant is currently used up in wages, which means very little left for anything else.
It is now obvious that many of our councillors accept this fact, although some are still promising that there will be no redundancies, and the gravy train shall continue.
Anyone who has lived in Shetland in the past 30 years can surely not have failed to witness the empire building that has gone on within the SIC, and it is surely here that the first steps have to be taken in the search for savings.
The schools appear to be target number one, and yes, there is a good argument for certain school closures, especially given the fact that Shetland now enjoys almost the best rural road network in the world. But on the other hand, education should be number one priority – any failure in our local education system will disadvantage children for years to come.
We would like to see some figures published showing the cost to the SIC for services such as the Sullom Voe tug and pilotage operations – which if we have understood reports correctly, has made a year-on-year loss since the SIC buyout.
The Lerwick district heating scheme has been subsidised since its inception – why not at least run it at its cost price?
Concentrate on what are and are not the obligations of a local authority and draw up the cutting list from that.
It is also worryingly obvious that certain mistakes are seemingly acceptable, but others are not. Our point being, the SIC lost tens of millions of pounds in various schemes ranging from the Shetland Salmon Group, the Smyril Line investment, the Bressay bridge argument, etc, and currently financing the development of a windfarm, and hardly a cheep from anyone – then the more recent Judane loan money and the chief executive pay-off situations, financial peanuts in comparison, and all hell is let loose.
The management of the SIC and its finances is so crucially important to all Shetlanders, and we believe the way forward has to be a leaner and fitter SIC, with less squabbling and more positive leadership.
So let’s welcome the borrowed new chief executive with open arms and hope that he can trim away some of the current excess, to make Shetland a viable community for years to come.
and Linda Bannister
Onboard Islay Mist