There is a big gap between the amount the council can afford to spend and what it would need to maintain all its assets, a meeting was told.
The SIC could afford to spend between £10 million and £11 million per year, it was agreed at the policy and resources committee meeting today, but more than £12 million would be unaffordable.
However, the long-term financial plan (LTFP) which predicts capital spend until 2050, estimated that the council would need to spend £17.2 million per year in order to maintain the assets it has at present.
The LTFP shows that “ferry-related projects” could account for as much as 45 per cent of the predicted spend over the next 18 years, although this could change significantly depending on the outcome of a review by Transport Scotland.
No allowance has been made for new buildings, although the plan has allocated £3 million per year to be spent on buildings, but maintenance will be much reduced.
Capital programme executive manager Robert Sinclair said no major schemes would be undertaken. The council was “moving to reduce the council’s estate”, and rationalisation was under way.
Councillor Theo Smith asked whether reduced spending on buildings could be storing up trouble for the future, and about disposal of buildings.
Chief executive Mark Boden said “maintenance will have to drive decision-making”, with the most expensive buildings to maintain likely to be sold. Mr Sinclair said that depended on the market.
Councillor George Smith called the report “downbeat”, and urged the council to be “more ambitious as well as realistic”.
He said there was nothing new in the “holding” report, but, he added: “Let’s try as well as keeping our noses to the grindstone to be ambitious and creative.”
Other councils in worse financial positions were more ambitious, Mr Smith said, and although he accepted the report, he hoped the next one “would have more detail and more opportunity for the future”.
Committee vice-chairman Billy Fox questioned where the money would come from. In the past, he said, aspirations had been high, but now circumstances had changed with lots of unknowns, the biggest of which was the ferries.
He said: “This is a dynamic plan, it will change as circumstances change. “We are confidently predicting that £10 million to £11 million capital spend is sustainable within the long term asset management plan.”
However, Mr Fox pointed out that this would eventually drop to less than £5 million per year.
Councillor Steven Coutts said that in the face of declining capital spend the council was not lacking in ambition, and cited the new Anderson High School and Eric Gray Centre.
Mr Fox said the council had to be “realistic” and the coming years would be difficult. However, the culture within the council and among the public had been changed from the previous “unrealistic expectations of spending”.