23rd October 2018
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Holyrood accused of playing ‘silly game’ over budget cuts

7 comments, , by , in Headlines, News

The council is looking at a reduction in Scottish government grant for next year of over £3.8m – making a 10 per cent reduction of £9m over two years.

The reduced budget is part of a Scottish-wide reduction in support for local government of £350m for 2017/18. The SIC decided not to respond to the government’s offer at a meeting on Wednesday, while noting that it intends to accept it.

But the council slammed the way that the government wanted a reply by today when the council’s budget discussions only take place on 15th February. The Scottish government announces its own budget five days later.

Allison Duncan – Scottish government is “holding a gun to our head”.

Council leader Gary Robinson described the government’s way of doing business as a “silly game” and South Mainland councillor Allison Duncan said, “they are just holding a gun to our head”.

A motion proposed by West Mainland member Frank Robertson to accept the settlement but to make no further representation to the government received 10 votes compared to eight for an amendment proposed by George Smith that would add more detailed caveats to the “reluctant acceptance”.

Mr Robinson said earlier that the Scottish government was looking for an “indicative” position as of Wednesday’s meeting, which essentially meant nothing concrete, and said that opposition MSPs should be able to force some upward movement in the budget on the minority government.

The draft budget indicates a revenue settlement of £79.15m for the SIC for 2017/18 – down £3.8m from this financial year. Capital funding was to have been £6.942m, or 20 per cent more than 2016/17, but some of this is being withheld till 2018 to 2020, meaning an effective capital cut for next year of £76,000.

The SIC has the option to increase council tax by three per cent this year but this will only add £258,000 to the coffers. Additional income from properties in bands E to H would amount to £155,000.

Shetland community health and social care partnership will continue to receive £1.024m next year for integrated health and social care and a further £438,000 will be made available to deliver the living wage.

Finance manager Jonathan Belford told the special meeting of the SIC that the settlement was below earlier hopes but £1m above an earlier “erroneous draft” that had set the reduction “floor” at six per cent rather than the correct five per cent.

Councillors heard that it was a “middle of the road” budget in Scottish terms – meaning about average – and that if it was declined, any further offer was almost certain to be worse. Mr Belford recommended agreeing to the package.

Jonathan Belford’s report said any revised offer would be lower.

Mr Belford’s report indicated that if the package was not agreed a revised offer would be made, but there was no information on how much lower the offer would be. The choice was to accept or reject what had been stated.

The take it or leave it approach had councillors fuming as there was no “discussion” to be done with Holyrood, which had effectively served up a fait accompli, subject only to its own budget alterations.

This provoked lengthy discussion among councillors about the government’s methodology and the significance of making a reply to the offer. Some councils had indicated that they were neither accepting nor rejecting what was on the table, but chief executive Mark Boden warned against this “ambiguous” approach.

The government had also erred by asking for a reply to its settlement from Mr Robinson, something that was not within his remit to make.

Not included in the financial settlement is funding for the inter-isles ferry service which has been the subject of a “great deal of work” with Transport Scotland and subject to additional funding.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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7 comments

  1. John Tulloch

    A bit too much genuflection and not enough straight talking at OIOF’s meetings with the Scottish government (SG), I suspect.

    These folk are dictatorial and this is just a sample of what you will get if they win independence. Councillor Duncan’s analysis is spot on, the SG is “just holding a gun to councillors heads.”

    The answer is to pull your own gun and let them look straight down the barrel.

    OIOF purports to campaign for increased local powers but, to present knowledge, has won none, not one. If the council itself cannot, or will not, express support for autonomy, then individual councillors need to do so, in significant numbers (no need to join Wir Shetland, just support the principle), to wake the SG up with a polite but firm splash of cold water.

    Reply
    • Brian Smith

      As I’ve said before, pointing a copy of Stuart Hill’s treatise at the Scottish Government will not have the petrifying effect Mr T. desires.

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        I don’t believe I suggested that, Brian. I suggested that, with the council elections – and possibly, a second independence referendum – coming, a significant number of councillors, preferably, a majority, elected after declaring support for Shetland to gain Faroese-style autonomy, would focus the minds of the Scottish government on how to retain their influence in the isles. That would be game-changing.

        OIOF has blown the once in 300-years opportunity served up by the last referendum, let’s not repeat that mistake. Time to make a stand.

  2. Johan Adamson

    Its not all doom and gloom if we get additional funds for the ferries.

    Reply
  3. ian_tinkler

    “Its not all doom and gloom if we get additional funds for the ferries.” We were promised ferry fare cuts by Sturgeon prior to the last election or was that just another typical SNP pre election bribe? She said sweet FA about £3.8m cuts on top of previous cuts, £9m over two years!!!. Gary Robinson’s comment, “just a Scottish Government “silly game””, is about as wet as a North Sea herring fish. This “silly game” puts Gary Robinson’s advocated rural school closures firmly on back the agenda again. Remember we have a Council Election soon, time to weed out the wet fish and put backbone into the Council, enough is enough!

    Reply
    • Bill Adams

      I assume you are being deliberately obtuse, Ian. Surely someone of your intellectual stature would realise that Johan is clearly referring to additional funds for Shetland’s INTERNAL inter-islands ferries.

      Reply
  4. ian_tinkler

    £9 million cuts and we may just get a reduction in ferry fares. Are we not so very grateful to SNP/SG generosity. Let’s make it a £20 million reduction in grant, then the ferries could be free!! Whoop whoop. Just a joke Bill Adams befor you get on you your high horse again.

    Reply

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