Extra cuts could damage services, says Smith
The council’s education department will have to find an extra £700,000 of savings this year, prompting a senior councillor to voice fears of damage to frontline services.
The need for additional cuts arose after council-wide “directorate” savings of £2.2 million were allocated to different SIC departments.
The sum comes on top of approved £2.5 million education savings in 2012/13, of which £1.4 million has been “banked” so far. Vice-chairman of the education and families committee George Smith said he found news of the extra savings “incredible”.
Praising Hayfield staff for their “diligence” in working towards the savings target set in the spring, Mr Smith said the imposition of more cuts halfway through the year risked making the department look bad.
Children’s services director Helen Budge said it was always the intention for the £2.2 million to be found from across the different departments.
Her budget was always going to swallow the biggest share because it is the most costly council service.
But she conceded the manner in which the savings were accounted for had muddied the picture: “We as directors do not want to see that happen again,” she said on Wednesday.
Education cuts form part of an overall £15.4 million savings target for 2012/13, as the local authority strives to preserve what remains of its battered oil reserves.
Other departments will face the following additional cuts: chief executive’s office £41,000; community care £363,000; corporate services £246,000; development £296,000, and infrastructure £342,000.
Mrs Budge told The Shetland Times she was confident her department would not need to make compulsory redundancies this winter.
She said reducing the wage bill was being approached in a planned fashion using temporary appointments, retirals and by not replacing staff who leave. Next year, the SIC plans to begin consulting on closing several schools, including Aith, Sandwick, Skerries and Whalsay secondaries, to save a further £3 million.