The Shetland Islands Council overall budget will need an “unsustainable” £8 million injected from its reserve fund to enable proposed services to be delivered, it was revealed in today’s (15th March) SIC Policy and Resources Committee meeting.
Overall the budget for the 2021-2022 financial year is £122.7 million with an estimated £114.6 million generated by council income, resulting in a budget shortfall of £8.09 million. However that amount marks almost £2.5 million less of a shortfall than the 2020-2021 financial year, a number which divided committee members.
Councillor George Smith said: “It hasn’t achieved financial sustainability but is shows we are going in the right direction.”
Fellow Shetland South representative Allison Duncan was less optimistic saying it was “unsustainable to keep drawing on the reserve”. Asked what better decisions the council could have made by councillor Emma Macdonald, Mr Duncan said: “I’m banging my head against a wall.”
Despite the concerns, the budget was approved to go before a whole council meeting.
Among the budgetary spends was £70,000 and a further annual payment of £25,000 for licencing for the improved web streaming and recording of council meetings.
Covid-19 has resulted in the use of video-conferencing for council meetings, via Microsoft Teams, which, councillors conceded, has limitations. Teams is not considered appropriate to permit the general public to join meetings live, but convener Malcolm Bell took an early decision to permit members of the media to join online meetings, in order to maintain a degree of public accountability and openness.
The first broadcast SIC meeting was on 10th August 2020.
During discussions Ryan Thomson said: “I think it is important for democracy and transparency.” Questions were asked about the £25,000 annual cost and whether subtitles or live transcribing functionality for hearing impaired residents would be part of the package.
Councillors were assured that “we’re looking at live transcribing. As a function it’s integrated into the systems we are looking at”.
The scheme was approved by the committee to be discussed by the full council.