Fear for services as new SIC financial plan debated
Cuts of 3.3 per cent a year are proposed in the council’s medium term financial plan put before councillors today.
Members of the policy and resources committee this morning had the chance to debate the proposed cuts, for the 2017 to 2021 period, this morning with several raising concerns over the impact the move would have on services.
Although the Scottish government had expected local authorities to save three per cent, SIC executive manager of finance Jonathan Belford suggested 3.3 per cent was a realistic target in Shetland because the council was organised, had prepared well and was in “positive place”.
This was largely due to the council’s reserves, which stood at £241 million in March this year.
The meeting heard that if savings were not made the council would face a deficit of £32 million, but without the reserves it would be nearer £100 million.
Mr Belford said the reserves had been drawn on in a responsible way – in 2015/16, £7.2 million had been taken out but from 2016/17 it would be £12 million per year.
Included in his figures was the assumption of a one per cent annual pay rise for staff, “our greatest asset”, from 2016/17 onwards.
Councillors feared that services would not be delivered in the same way when cuts are introduced, and education vice-chairman George Smith said he was particularly concerned about education, and was “keen to examine all the options”.
His suggestion that council staff should go down from a 37-hour to a 35-hour week was rejected by corporate services manager Christine Ferguson, who said 37 hours was a nationally agreed figure and 35 hours would technically become part-time.
Mr Belford said: “The projections are based on the information available today to allow the council to plan for the future. By having a plan we can take action.”
• The full council will meet this afternoon to formally agree the plan. Full report in Friday’s Shetland Times.