Shetland Islands Council will soon be discussing a report whose implications for life in Shetland, and the islands’ economy, is very important. The council made the report available at the very last moment, so many people may not be aware of its contents.
In an appendix to the report devoted to “service change options 2012-13 and beyond” there is a column entitled “socio-economic and jobs”. It is a section that many Shetlanders will be reading with keen attention, and, in some cases, fear.
“Socio-economic and jobs” is an area where the authors of the report should have been as explicit as possible, to leave no doubt at all in the minds of councillors about the implications for their staff’s and constituents’ livelihoods. Instead, the column is full of vagueness: “overall impact likely to be negative”, “overall likely to be negative in the long term due to … reduction in jobs/economic activity” and the like.
At a meeting on 23rd January UNISON and the GMB unions drew officials’ attention to these inadequate descriptions, and pointed out that councillors would not have a clear idea about the impact of their decisions without concrete information. The officials told us that it was impossible to provide such information before councillors meet!
Meanwhile, the council has published a report which has a lot to say about “socio-economic and jobs”. The Hutton report, by George Dyer, tells us that the council’s proposed cuts “could result in 600 full-time job losses, 422 of them from the council, and a 4.5 per cent fall in Shetland’s total output”.
Most of us would regard that as a catastrophe. But Hutton, and presumably the council, see a silver lining: “that assumes no growth in the private sector, which [Dyer] describes as an unrealistic scenario”. Never fear, the business community will make up the shortfall in a twinkling!
Councillors will arrive at their crucial meeting with inadequate information. They will be fortified by a nonsensical document about Shetland’s economic future. They should throw out the budget report and go back to square one.
Local services branch,