Anyone who is distressed by the cuts to social enterprise COPE should support it by buying its products, said council convener Malcolm Bell.
The social company which operates various businesses has recently lost 20 per cent of its council funding, which will result in the closure of its town centre cafe Karibuni.
However the company still runs the Shetland Soap Company, COPE Catering, COPE Pet Supplies, COPE Trees & Shrubs and Shetland Scrapstore.
Mr Bell, who formerly worked as interim general manager of COPE made his comments at Monday’s meeting of Lerwick Community Council, of which he is a member.
He said the organisation is still generously funded. COPE will receive public funding to the tune of £430,000 in the year 2013/14 from SIC development trust, community care and Shetland Charitable Trust.
Mr Bell said he wanted to set the funding cuts in context: “You won’t find a local authority in the country that supports a social enterprise to the extent this one [SIC] does. The cuts are regrettable but the funding is still generous in comparison to that in other areas of the country.
“In Shetland over the last few decades caring has become synonymous with spending, the only way we show we care is to throw money at something. Every publicly-funded organisation is facing a squeeze and [examination of] the way it does business and COPE is no different.
“COPE is still exceptionally well-funded and supported and rightly so.”
Mr Bell said that when COPE started in 1998 the idea was that it would become “more self-funding than it currently is”. But financial pressures are now causing all organisations to look at their structures.
He said: “The best thing we can do as a community is buy their soap, shrubs and plants and recycle things. Their products are very high quality.”
He said that the idea of COPE was to train disabled people for mainstream employment but they tended to stay within the protective environment of COPE.
Member Gussie Angus said the local authority should be asked to look again at its recruitment policy for disabled people and Mr Bell said all organisations should do that.
He said: “The council has an over-riding responsibility in leading the way in the employment of disabled and disadvantaged people wherever possible.”
Chairman Jim Anderson said the public perception was that [council] funding was supporting things elsewhere.
Member Jonathan Wills took this to refer to Hay’s Dock restaurant in the new museum, which has been jokingly mentioned on this paper’s website as an alternative to Freefield.
Dr Wills insisted Hay’s Dock gets no council subsidy.