SIC minibuses to be offered to community groups

Local community groups are to be given the opportunity to buy three SIC minibuses for a few hundred pounds apiece.

If there is interest in taking the minibuses off the local authority’s hands, it could save £23,000 a year.

It would also no longer require an estimated outlay of £135,000 every five years to replace the vehicles.

The three minibuses will be sold for between £500 and £750, a level the council feels should be affordable to community groups and which will “generate serious and well thought-out proposals whilst not being… prohibitively expensive”.

Community-run minibus services already operate in Whalsay, Fetlar, Burra and Trondra. It is hoped other areas will be interested in following suit.

Development director Neil Grant told councillors last week that, with the minibuses in question now being based at Islesburgh, their use had dropped as rural communities found them “difficult to access”.

Councillor George Smith said it was “sad it’s come to this”, questioning why the SIC was seeking to “pass this burden” to community groups. Mr Grant said he viewed it as “passing on an opportunity” to groups which have a “better ability to get use of the vehicles”.

Speaking during last Wednesday’s education and families committee meeting, Mr Smith demanded to know why the storage of minibuses outside of Lerwick had suddenly presented an insurance risk after the scheme had run successfully for 20 or 30 years.

Safety and risk manager Sandra Pearson referred to “some cases of unlawful use” which might have risked invalidating the council’s insurance policy. But she said having the minibuses based in town was “not one of our burning issues”.

Mr Smith also questioned how easy it would be for community groups to get funding for replacement minibuses.

Political leader Gary Robinson’s motion to sound out interested groups was passed without challenge.

He said that if groups did not come forward, the education and families committee could revisit the subject. Mr Robinson added that some communities had been able to access outside funding for replacement vehicles – something the SIC would not be eligible for.


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