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.