Spending not centralised, figures show

Figures have been produced which could scotch a widely-held belief in rural areas that council services are largely centralised towards Lerwick.

A table presented to members this week from finance chief James Gray show the average council revenue spend for a Lerwick resident will be £4,609 during the next financial year.

That comes in just below the average figure of £4,724. The total council spend on the town for the year stands at £35,745,439. That is out of the total council spend for the year of £109,492,751.

The lowest spend per person is in the Central Mainland, at £2,814. Next is the South Mainland at £3,623, while £4,460 is expected to be spent per person on the West Side.

But it is the islands, which rely on ferries and, or, inter-island flights, which have the largest proportion of expenditure.

At the top of the list is Papa Stour. Its population of 15 is due to receive a total council spend of more than £510,000, equating to an annual spend per person of £34,013.

The table shows council expenditure per head in different communities.
The table shows council expenditure per head in different communities.

More than £1 million is expected to be spent on Foula to benefit its 38 residents, amounting to a £26,731 spend per person.

Close to £2 million will be spent in Skerries, meaning £25,793 will be spent on its 74 residents. The expenditure per person in Fair Isle, Fetlar and Yell are £17,347, £16,723 and £9,661 respectively. Unst and Whalsay come in at £8,176 and £6,716 respectively.

The cheapest of the islands is Bressay, with a spend per person of £5,806.

Mr Gray stated in his report: “Despite the higher spending per head of population in the most remote parts of Shetland, there is a widely held belief in the community that the council does not spend sufficiently in these areas because it focuses expenditure on Lerwick.”
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Add Your Comment
  • Johan Adamson

    • December 5th, 2014 11:56

    No one has ever said the spending is all centralised, Shetlanders are not stupid, they know ferries are expensive, but are a necessity. The country have just said stop cutting our services, because they are lifeline in the country. I wonder what the table would look like if you took away ferries, cos all the ones at the top have ferries. Lerwick should be at the bottom, not in the middle as you have more population to divide things between, like Central, showing as lowest spend, as you have more people to divide between. Increase the population of Papa Stour and suddenly it looks better. It is a given that it costs more to live on an island but that doesnt mean the council needs to stop supporting them. That is the reason the council exists in the first place, not to provide luxuries, but basic services to all of the population.

    I dont know why these figures have been published, other than to add fuel to a fire that doesnt need stoking, putting the town against the country.

  • John Tulloch

    • December 5th, 2014 14:15

    I was surprised to see Lerwick so high up the list, I thought it would be at the bottom, since it’s so much cheaper to supply facilities and services efficiently in a small, densely-populated area.

    Given that about a third of the population lives there, there must be a hell of a lot of money being ploughed into that small area?

  • Robert Duncan

    • December 5th, 2014 16:39

    Seems an oversimplified table, and certainly impossible to conclude much without viewing methodology.

    For example, are Anderson High School costs attributed entirely to Lerwick? Are costs of Tingwall airport attributed to Central Mainland, or to Outer Isles, or to both?

  • Sandy McDonald

    • December 5th, 2014 18:01

    This table doesn’t tell the whole story – far to simplified to deny a Lerwick-centric predisposition. What about local authority job creation? How about moving some of the offices out of the town?

    • john Tulloch

      • December 6th, 2014 14:39

      Hear, hear!

      In Argyll, the council finance department is located in Campbeltown, fifty miles down the Kintyre Peninsula, the HQ in Lochgilphead and other big offices in Oban, Helensburgh and Dunoon, all vast distances apart.

      So there’s no reason why SIC offices couldn’t be in, say, Sandwick, Aith, Brae, Whalsay, Unst, etc.

      What easier way exists for the SIC to breathe “sustainable” life into Shetland’s rural areas?

  • John Tulloch

    • December 5th, 2014 19:13

    @Robert Duncan,

    Interesting point.

    Given the SIC’s recent record on allocating costs in a budget for a supposedly crucial “money-saving” project, we must, indeed, take these figures with a pinch of salt.

    On your point about Tingwall Airport and for that matter, the ferries, those services, like our electricity, are available to all, at any time and I used both air and sea services, primarily sea, when I lived in Lerwick, so that I could visit places like the North Isles, Papa Stour, Bressay, etc..

    When we use a ferry we pay a fare, akin to when we switch on an electrical appliance – the more you use, the more you pay – in addition, we pay a “standing charge”, ostensibly, based on the cost of providing an electrical supply to our homes, whether we choose to switch it on, or not.

    So it’s arguable that the same principle might be applied to the ferries, namely, that capital costs and overheads be allocated to all potential users/beneficiaries and the running costs, i.e. fuel, seagoing staff, etc., be recovered through the fares.

  • Michael Garriock

    • December 5th, 2014 19:16

    “Spending not centralised, figures show”

    On the contrary it shows that compared to the rest of the Mainland spending most certainly IS concentrated on Lerwick. With a per capita actual spend already greater than any other Mainland area, if there’s any truth in the assertion that services can be delivered more cheaply in areas of denser population, the actual £ value of each £ spent per head in Lerwick, raises the actual value of services received by Lerwick residents to an even greater amount per capita than any other Mainland residents.

    The isles are always going to have a notably higher per capita spend to receive comparable levels of services to Mainland areas, for no other reasons than ones of simply geography, and its disingenuous to attempt to compare the two on equal terms. Likewise, a notable percentage of Mainland spend, roads in particular come to mind, are not to the benefit of that area, but to the benefit of an isle or isles which have a connection passing through that locality.

    Like others I am at a loss to see what the purpose was for publishing this information in its given form, which appears to be nothing more than rough workings on the back of a fag packet. At the very least the actual £ spend per area needs to be corrected to account for the alleged variations in VFM brought about by population density, and the proportion of a local spend that actually benefits not that area, but others travelling etc through.

    Perhaps a fairer and more accurate method of assessing this, would be to draw up a comparison table of what Council services and facilities are within realistically reasonable reach of residents of each locality.

  • Andy Holt

    • December 6th, 2014 18:50

    Someone, no one knows who exactly, once said that there are three types of lying; lies, damn lies and statistics. I would be interested to know two things. How these figures were arrived at and who authorised their collation and publication. If Mr Gray published on his own initiative, that strikes me as a highly politically motivated act for an unelected council employee. If it was a member of the town council, perhaps he or she would like to come out of the shadows and make themselves known to the rest of us in order to that there might be an open and honest debate.


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