The issue of how much the council spends on overtime on the inter-island ferries was raised again at a meeting today. The ferries board heard that it amounts to one fifth of the total bill.
The issue was raised by councillor Rick Nickerson, who said the figures presented were “worrying”.
Councillor Laura Baisley said that while the figures looked better when considering underspends in pay on some of the routes, such Whalsay and Unst, due to vacant posts, the overtime bill was worrying at a time of such financial difficulty.
Head of finance Graham Johnston said that due to changes in how working hours were calculated, such as the single status agreement, more overtime was now included as part of basic hours.
Ms Baisley said: “It doesn’t seem right that people are depending on overtime to make a wage.”
Mr Nickerson agreed, and said he was “uncomfortable” with the situation: “There is real scope to make savings in overtime.”
A report monitoring the revenue of the ferries service showed a current overspend of £27,000 for the period April to September 2010. The service has however found savings of £39,000.
A projected total overspend of £500,000 is predicted for the full year, although this is a “worst case scenario” figure and is expected to be reduced as fuel budgets are monitored throughout the year.
Mr Nickerson said that given the current financial situation, any overspend should be avoided if at all possible: “The full council has said that budgets must be cut. If that means a review of the ferries service then so be it.”
Executive director of infrastructure services Gordon Greenhill said that overtime bills across the SIC were being looked at and agreed that a review of overtime within the ferries service was “fundamental”.