Cuts to ferries, gritting and street lighting to loom large at public meetings

A series of public drop-in sessions to discuss cuts to services including ferries, road gritting and street lighting will kick off in Symbister next week.

Staff from the SIC’s infrastructure services department will run the sessions as they seek help from the public in identifying savings to help plug the local authority’s spending deficit.

A dozen drop-ins have been announced, with the sessions beginning in Symbister (Thursday 14th June), Mid Yell (Friday 15th) and Unst (Monday 18th). There will also be events in Bressay, Walls, Fetlar, Lerwick, Cunningsburgh, Brae, Scalloway, Tingwall and Papa Stour between now and early July.

SIC officials and councillors are trying to hammer home the message that diminishing oil reserves, increased costs and poorer returns on stock market investments mean its spending still “far outstrips” its available resources.

Despite saving £11.5 million last year – more than £2 million higher than planned – through “internal efficiencies”, the local authority operated at a loss of around £100,000 a day.

Cuts ideas within the infrastructure department will include ways of slashing spending on inter-island ferries, where budgets have come under savage pressure from high fuel prices. The findings of a top-to-bottom review of ferries, aimed at saving the best part of £2 million annually, are due later this year.

Other likely cutbacks in infrastructure include road gritting, street lighting, rural public toilets and community skips. A full list of ideas and proposals should be published later this week.

The meetings are designed to give people the chance to see the different options, to comment on the impact certain proposals will have and to put forward ideas to “mitigate the effects of any future cuts”, the SIC said.

Environment and transport committee chairman Allan Wishart said the potential impact of future savings decisions should not be underestimated.

“Councillors must have the best information available, before taking decisions which will have significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods,” Mr Wishart said.

“I know the whole concept of ‘consultation’ might have a bad reputation for some people – but I can’t emphasise enough the seriousness of the financial situation facing the council, and the need for the public to get involved in this process.

“It’s no longer a case of whether or not we make cuts – but where those cuts can be made fairly, and with the least impact.”

The full list of consultations is as follows:

  • Tuesday 19th June, Bressay Hall, 4pm-7pm
  • Thursday 21st June, Walls Hall, 2pm-7pm
  • Friday 22nd June, Fetlar Hall, 4.15pm-7.15pm
  • Saturday 23rd June, Lerwick Town Hall, 2.30pm-5pm
  • Tuesday 26th June, Cunningsburgh Hall, 2pm-7pm
  • Wednesday 27th June, Brae Hall, 2pm-7pm
  • Thursday 28th June, Scalloway Hall, 2pm-7pm
  • Saturday 30th June, Tingwall Hall, 2pm-5pm
  • Wednesday 4th July, Papa Stour, 10.30am-12.30pm

Drop-in dates for Skerries and Fair Isle are still to be arranged.


Add Your Comment
  • S M Burns

    • June 5th, 2012 12:52

    They could save some money on the inter-island ferries by collecting fares from foot passengers. They do this on the Bressay and Skerries ferry, but on the north isles ones you often need to chase a staff member to pay your fare!

  • Tommy Robertson

    • June 5th, 2012 14:31

    Here we go again. Ferries, Street Lights, Roads and Toilets.

    Why can nobody see that the amounts that can be saved on services like these are barely going to scratch the surface of the savings the council are tryin to make?

    Of course these services should be being run as economically as possible, but that is the job of qualified, experienced, officials. Not councillors who may know little or nothing about practicalities, legislation etc, let alone members of the public!

    To include winter gritting makes this even more laughable. How can such a variable budget even be considered as an option. We may have anything from 5 to 100 days of frost or snow any given year. Is this coouncil going to control the weather too?!

    It may be laughable but it is also serious. Everyone can see the deterioration in the roads and buildings over the past few years as these services have been slashed whilst others continue to grow.

    My question is : Is the council still able to fufill all its statutory requirements for these basic services? And if not, who foots the bill when something bad happens?

  • I. Anderson

    • June 5th, 2012 21:12

    I own a business and I must say if I was in financial difficulty as serious for me, as the SIC seems to be, I would think about cutting staff as this is the largest expense a business has. Is that not what any business person would do. Maybe I’m wrong but there seems to be a huge amount of staff employed by the SIC and some of them seem to stand around doing nothing and there seems to still be lots of yellow vans and council pick ups? I would like to know what the SIC wages are monthly and I don’t just mean ferrymen. (They always seem to be the target.)

  • Brian Smith

    • June 5th, 2012 21:59

    It would be very interesting to know who dreamed this up: elected members – or officials.

  • Stewart Mack

    • June 6th, 2012 9:54

    In response to Tommy Robertson’s comments – I can see how the savings from Street Lights and Toilets might barely scratch the surface (but as one large supermarket would say – “every little helps”), But are you seriously suggesting that the Costs of the inter island ferries are insignificant? – I am not saying they should be cut or even reduced, but even the fuel bill to run the ferries is significant so it is understandable that they must at least be looked at.It would be foolhardy not to in my view


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