Shetland Islands Council has confirmed dates for seven public meetings to listen to any ideas the community may have on how to slash £26 million from its annual budget over the next two years.
The first meeting will take place in Cunningsburgh Hall on Wednesday 26th October and there will also be sessions in Scalloway, Bixter, Whalsay, Brae, Lerwick and Yell. Councillors and officials will be present to set out the “bare facts” of the council’s financial position and members of the public will have the opportunity to make suggestions for savings.
Trade unions have been warning that the end result of the consultations is likely to be “chaos” because the council has set out a figure before deciding what services it needs to prioritise. The unions have also expressed deep concern at the potential impact the cuts – equivalent to over 400 jobs – could have on the Shetland economy.
But a recent report from temporary head of finance Hazel Sutherland warned that if spending was not cut the SIC’s oil reserves could be emptied before the end of this decade. She re-asserted this week that there was simply no alternative.
“The bottom line is that we have to cut council spending considerably,” she said. “£26 million is a lot of money, but we simply cannot afford to raid our reserves any further.
“These meetings are an opportunity for members of the Shetland public to have their say on how we spend and save their money. Each meeting will start at 7pm. With the scale of challenge we are facing, I think it’s really important we get a good turnout.”
Meeting dates are as follows: Cunningsburgh Hall (26th October), Scalloway Hall (27th October), Bixter Hall (31st October), Symbister Hall (1st November), Brae Hall (2nd November), Sound Hall (3rd November), Cullivoe Hall (10th November).
• You can read more information on the council’s website at www.shetland.gov.uk/sport/councilspendinghaveyoursay.asp. You can also email suggestions for saving money to firstname.lastname@example.org.