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Isles unaffected by HIE job cuts

SHETLAND’s Highland and Islands Enterprise office will not be affected by a programme of voluntary redundancies that sees the region’s economic development agency lose 53 members of staff by the end of this month.

The isles’ area manager Stuart Robertson confirmed last night (Monday) that none of the nine staff in the offices shared with the council’s economic development unit had applied for redundancy.

Overall HIE is shedding 16 per cent of its staff after the Scottish government had changed the agency’s remit which is now more focussed on helping existing businesses to grow.

The move will reduce the agency’s wage bill by £2 million annually which, they say, will be ploughed back into programmes to support businesses and communities.

Mr Robertson said HIE’s Shetland office continued supporting the local business community, although he admitted that the agency had become less visible since moving in with the local authority in the new Solarhus offices, at Lerwick’s North Ness.

He said HIE Shetland was working with the council on the successful business gateway initiative as well as supporting a number of larger business project throughout the isles.

“We recognise that our profile is probably a little bit lower than what it was, and we recognise that we need to do something about that.

“We are keen for people to come in via the business gateway. We work very closely with the council on the business gateway project,” he said.

Explaining the changes in the overall organisation, HIE chairman William Roe said: “The government’s strategy identified that HIE should offer dedicated expertise to ambitious businesses and social enterprises, small or large, keen to expand their operations and markets.

“This month we are reducing our overall workforce but simultaneously looking to strengthen key areas by recruiting a number of posts to boost this support.

“We have a budget of over £83m to spend on this task over the forthcoming year and by creating savings in our internal operations and reducing our wage bill, we can devote a bigger share of that figure to supporting businesses and communities and investing in the infrastructure needed to help them succeed.”

HIE said the severance scheme would cost the agency £3.9m which will be recouped within two years. Meanwhile, the agency is in the process of recruiting a new chief executive.