SIC - Festive Arrangements 2019
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SIC budget cuts: live

Shetland Islands Council is meeting to discuss cutting a quarter of its annual budget. We shall try and bring you live updates.

18:26 Sutherland is asked for the final figure that’s been saved. Draw on reserves is just £1m more than they started with.

Josie Simpson thanks everyone for their hard work. The meeting is over. There is a lot of work to do over the next few months, and they haven’t even started looking at the figures for 2013/14.  

18:22 Wishart: a recent report said Orkney had lowest economic growth and we had the highest, despite them getting six ferries a day and us getting three. We still have a very fragile economy here and we’re asking a lot of our staff with these reviews.

Asks again for secondary review of three issues – sport, marketing, fund managers.

He moves, Miller seconds.

Wills wants all six items examined – including economic development, corporate services and chief executive, outsourcing legal and planning. Robinson seconds (except sport and leisure – conflict of interest) Angus seconds on that.

Simpson wants to protect corporate and chief executive services.

Councillors agree that any money not found would come from reserves, at Sutherland’s request.

Vote:
Wishart: 9
Wills: 5

18:16 There are 15 councillors left. Robert Henderson has just left, as have Rick Nickerson, Laura Baisley, Andrew Hughson, Frank Robertson, David Sandison.

Angus: economic development has always been important to the SIC, but conditions are changing especially with the trust. If I have read the runes correctly charitable trust will be outside state aid regulations and will create much more opportunity to invest in the economy.

Cluness: at this stage to reduce funding we have already agreed for development would be a big mistake.

18:12 Wishart suggests a review of the potential savings from: combining sport & leisure with SRT; marketing and Promote Shetland; review fund managers.

Wills: we have to put our core services first, private business is booming. It’s hard for me to take money from economic development who have helped me.

I have been thinking about this for 4 years and agonising about this. All I propose is ask officials to look at this over next 6 weeks. Perhaps my ideas are ridiculous, but we should ask officials to look at this.

Robinson seconds. There is low unemployment here, as long as that is case I don’t know if we can continue justifying spending money on development. There’s perception Orkney gets more bang for their buck on development.

18:07 Henderson: aganist cutting economic development, helped him employ lots of people in the north isles. He had a £5,000 week wage bill suporting the local economy.

Fullerton: uncomfortable with the figures for savings being proposed. We should be setting priorities. We should ask who has made the bigest savings, because this can’t go on. Without resrves we won’t be able to ask of we can have economic development, extra care. We are making priorities on the hoof.

18:04 Manson: a lot of legal work has been outsourced. In one case it was delayed and much more expensive, taking it back in house has made things much more efficient.

Cooper: concerned we’re drawing money out of economic development at a time when we should be supporting it with what is happening to the public sector.

We give grants and loans to businesses and they don’t draw down week after you give them the loan, so you end up with expenditure committed one year, released another year. You could end up not being able to support commitments you have undertaken.

First we need Neil Grant to tell us what is likely to be coming up and is already committed. Then if we need to cut, people will have to go elsewhere.

Other problem is banks are not lending. Folk want to go into business and we are in a position to help them. We need to support the continuing growth and product quality of the seafood industry.

We need to be pushing economic development probably harder than we are doing. 

18:00 Now looking at alternative savings.

Suggestions: economic development should lose money for the time being, combine sport and leisure with recreation trust, combine marketing and Promote Shetland, amalgamate chief executive and corporate services, outsourcing legal servicesad review fund manager arrangments.

All but the marketing suggestion come from Wills.

17:56 Citizens Advice Bureau service level agreement (saving £3,500)

Duncan: this would be a detrimental move. Wills seconds

Fullerton has sympathy. Cost of living is rising and service will be used more, but money will have to be found somewhere else.

Miller agrees with Fullerton. “It’s one of the most vaulable services that we have.”

Sutherland: 10% cuts to external bodies has been agreed elsewhere.

Lawrie: this is only £3,500 and service demand will grow. I don’t want to suggest a review because I think you will struggle with the number of reviews you have already got, but it would be good to look at this area of money advice “in its totality” over the next couple of years

CAB keeps its money.

17:50 Manson sticks to his guns “even if I die in the trenches”. Robinson seconds.

Fullerton amends that the new class sizes are introduced. Let’s look at figures once a year to avoid disruption during school year. Miller seconds.

Vote:
Fullerton: 13
Manson: 4

17:48 Increasing to national class sizes (£242,000)

Manson: this should be part of the overall Blueprint review.

Fullerton: concerned this will be an added distraction.

Budge: committee agreed we would move to national class sizes, but a local version. If we add this into the Blueprint, I assume we would add to the £3m an additional £242,000 and approval we already have to move to national class sizes by August 2012 would be postponed by 12 months.

Fullerton: stop/start no good for staff, let’s stick to where we are.

Angus: I don’t think we have a choice here because of the legal situation. But please handle Bells Brae sensitively.

Budge: We will. 

17:42 Third educational psychology post (£27,500)

Wills wants this post left in, saying the service is understaffed and under pressure.

Manson says it is difficult to fill posts, and two are managing OK.

Fullerton agrees: it’s managed with one, having two would be sufficient, we don’t need three.

Wills tells us the professionals need three, if they needed two they would say so.

Fullerton: I can’t support keeping that post in when you look at soome of the thiings we have taken out.

Vote:
Fullerton: 12
Wills: 3

17:36 Buchan: be careful about identifying substitute savings is a very “vexed” issue, and should be handled in a more general discussion at the end.

Angus: difficulty is if we’re not on executive committee we don’t have opportunity for our ideas to be discussed.

17:34 Removing support to voluntary groups (£37,000) like Befriending or Advocacy

Cluness: people will suffer if we do this. Moves it’s removed and Wills seconds.

Wills: this could be saved by transferring sports and leisure to recreational trust or taken from fixed links budget.

Agreed.

17:29 Now looking at £2m savings on staff providing dedicated day care in care centres.

Fullerton: To think we can take £2m out of this in one year will be difficult, put stress on carers and hurt people in isolated areas. What will replace these services concerns me.

Cluness moves for a review.

Smith says he was going to do the same. A lot of people go for social activities. We should leave this in for review, we don’t look forward enough into our communities to open halls to provide this service. “It’s ahuge amount of money but we need to find a lot of money.”

Grains: it’s not just for social activity.

Everyone agrees it should come under review, but Manson points out “we are fooling ourselves if we think we are saving £2m next year.” Others agree.

Robertson: this figure of £2m is total nonsense.

Review will take six months. 

17:24 Wills: I accept it’s reviewed, it’s a good idea to look at other ways, but if you try to remove it after the review there will be hell on.

Freefield will be reviewed.

17:22 Wishart: this is to be assessed along with alternative means. On that basis I move it’s kept in under “to be assessed”.

Smith: Some groups may be interested in taking this over. I would like this changed to a review to see if anyone interested in taking it on.

Angus seconds, Wills accepts as part of motion. 

17:20 Freefield Centre.

Wills: the lunch club is what matters, not the building. Where could it be paid for. I have made a number of suggestions, a number could be met by ferries review.

Duncan seconds.

Cluness supports saying: it’s important for maintaining social contact, especially after bereavements. “We could find we need to provide services which would cost even more. Unlikely to be able to do it cheaper anywhere else.”

17:17 Vote:

Duncan: 6
Miller: 9

Charges to be introduced for food at the hostel.

17:16 Fullerton: this is purely to help pay for their food. It’s an inequality if we don’t apply this, as parents have to pay for feeding children at home.

Grains: this is about bairns from the islands, who would like to go home. For that reason I think it’s a shame to charge them when they would much rather not be there.

17:14 Charging £25 board for Janet Courtney Hostel.

Miller says £5 a day is very cheap. Wills asks if those figures stand up.

Budge: total cost is £200/pupil/week, this would be part of cost and means tested.

Wishart seconds Miller to go ahead.

Duncan: this is making a second class society, to go down road to means test parenst is a step too far. They pay an additonal £4 at weekends. Why should we charge parents for their children’s education. We are a fairly wealthy local authority, this is disgraceful.

Henderson seconds. 

17:10 Angus: music teachers do very little tuition. It’s left to instructors who take them through qualifications. It’s pretty odd. If we refresh the Blueprint, there is more to this than meets the eye and it should be subject to review.

Henderson seconds Grains.

Wishart moves it stays under review. At risk of nipping away at bits and pieces. We are in danger of threatening reserves. “I think we’re beginning to buckle here.”

Vote:
Wishart: 15
Grains: 4

 

17:07 Music instruction and reduction of music tuition

Fullerton says review has been underway, but is taking time. It is coming back to committee and decision could be made at committee.

Nickerson is no longer at the meeting. He wanted it retained.

Helen Budge says information from review would come back to committee in the autumn. “We are leaving it in as a target, but leaving it in as this worksheet.”

Grains: We have already cut and if we cut again we will lose a whole generation of pupils. I want it to remain.

Robinson: music tuition we are talking about is far above and beyond what is curricular. I don’t believe it should come from education. We hear creative industries are worth so many millions, maybe it should come from economic development.

17:02 Redesign of school library service:

Baisley moved a change but is no longer at the meeting. Matter has been resolved privately, Fullerton says.

17:01 Wills: my political priority is child protection. Motion is to find money from development.

Cluness: we have deferred £3m on schools, and I would have thought the answer here is a review. We open ourselves to considerable risk by reducing protection.

Fullerton withdraws motion if Wills can identify money from elsewhere.

Cooper is equally concerned about childcare, I don’t agree we can take money from development “on a whim of Jonathan’s”.

Wills: It’s not a whim, it’s a carefull considered suggestion.

Vote:

Cooper: 7
Wills: 11

Cooper: how much is Jonathan taking out of economic development. £30,759. 

16:57 Vacancy in children and families.

Wills says that if this person is not replaced it will have a gradual impact. Saving £30,759.

Fullerton says SIC will assess impact, and thinks it’s too much to ask of the department. “LIke Jonathan I do have concerns. This is an area I am quite protective of, but I accept the advice and want it left in until it’s assessed.”

Wills: Money could be saved from economic development.

Fullerton: my concern is this money can’t be found within this budget. How do we deal with money coming from elsewhere. If for example Wills is suggesting the money came from development, I would be foolish to refuse.

Cluness: You can never have enough protection for children.

Cooper: I will defend economic development. What little money is left there we need to help businesses to grow and develop. 

16:52 Fullerton suggests keeping it in at this stage because there is a review being prepared on the subject.

Robinson: great fear is we will lose experienced staff in this section and a lot of the good will built up over time.

Wishart seconds Fullerton as report about to come out, we should pause and see the results of the report.

Fullerton wants it to be assessed, Robinson wants it reviewed. Fullerton says the review is almost done.

Helen Budge warns the change fund money would only be temporary.

Vote:
Fullerton: 9
Robinson: 8

The service to be assessed. 

16:47 Next up: childcare partnership review (saving £30,908).

Robinson says it will cut staff by 60%, not statutory but important and helps council meet its commitments. We had 29 childminders in 2007 and now we have 18, so cuts have already been made. Good news is new ones coming on.

Scottish govt have £50m childcare change fund and could be applied to. We could be premature in cutting this now. We need to ensure we have a strong partnership to deliver on our commitments.

I propose we dopn’t make cut and apply to childcare change fund. We have a good chance of being successful. I think we can deliver more and spend less if we are smart about this.

Gussie seconds. It took time to figure out this was one partnership that works. There’s a steady demand for childcare and this partnership works on building up the servce to meet the demand, which will grow in the future. 

16:42 First issue: stop the neighbourhood support worker and community warden service. Jonathan Wills wants it kept and says he has given his reasons. Allan Wishart wants it to be put to review.

Phil Crossland says a review would take four months to review and would go to next council. Suggests it comes back to full council in June/July.

Wishart says there are four posts and two are vacant and not been filled.

Straight to the vote, no summing up.

Wishart: 11
Wills: 5

The service is to be reviewed. 

16:38 Meeting resumes.

Hazel Sutherland: concentrate on 2012/13 first. Some issues will come into 2013/14 and we may come back to those.

For 2012/13 with proposals for £7.6m. Items for further discussions valued at £300,000.

Redesign of services referred £2.8m for debate. They were £9.6m.

Jonathan Wills has suggested a further £3m of savings.

All agree to discuss 2012/13 and leave 2013/14 until another time. 

The meeting will now move to debate several issues raised during the day. Some main issues so far:

* Blueprint for Education is back on the table with all schools under review;
* single status termas and conditions will be reviewed;
* the ferry service will be reviewed;
* the future of Freefield Centre is to be debated;
* the amalgamation of the chief executive & corporate services department will be debated.

This marathon meeting is adjourned until 4.30pm

16:07 Everyone is happy with a review of single status to save £2m and cutting £500,000 on overtime.

16:04 Brian Lawrie says we could get out of rented and leased properties.

The £450,000 procurement savings are additional to existing efforts to save £1m on procurement.

Savings here are being “driven” across all the council and we have to “capture” the value of those savings. 

16:01 Gussie Angus asks for more detail on revised procurement savings of £450,000.

Brian Lawrie mentions cheaper paper which is already being used (not to everyone’s pleasure). Important part of this is working with local economy to drive these savings and at national savings programmes.

15:59 Allison Duncan: cutting funding to Citizens Advice Bureau would be a false economy.

Meeting agrees to review this.

15:58 Florence Grains is concerned about the lack of staff in finance.

Brian Lawrie: if we can use electronic technology better we can have an impact on overtime. We are trying to address financial issues with accounts. 

15:56 Jonathan Wills: let’s do something about the fund managers who just track the market. Little knowledge and skill applied, but they charge £800,000. I would like that to come down a lot before we close any rural public toilets. There must be a way of getting this £800,000 down a bit.

Brian Lawrie: At this stage it would be dangerous to put a figure into the budget. It could require retendering. It would be appropriate to suggest we review fund managers, and the new finance head will review this.

Jonathan accepts. 

15:51 Betty: “£40 couldn’t buy a bride’s shoe”

15:50 Betty wants a discussion about charges for the town hall. Suggests a review could be carried out in a week? £40 for a wedding is ridiculous. Weddings nowadays cost £20,000 – we should look carefully at this. I am not sure we should wait for a review and put prices up now.

Jonathan Wills shocked at the cost of weddings.

Gussie Angus says there is a big review to go on about the use of Lerwick Town Hall. Charges should be part of that review.

15:46 Alastair Cooper fights back. He says Gary and Caroline made part of the problem by the £5.5m single status deal that has priced the council out of the market. That’s why people won’t leave the council to compete.

15:45 Brian Lawrie: We are already looking at review of legal services.

Gary Robinson: We seem to be trying to maintain the empire. I am happy to see the empire broken up a bit, as long as we stay friendly with the commonwealth. There’s always been this view the council should do everything.

Are we investing in development for private sector to compete with the public sector?

15:42 Now they are discussing corporate services.

Jonathan Wills: proposes major saving by amalgamating chief executive and corporate services department. We have to take emergency measures and we should start at the top. We’ve had a review, but things are a lot worse than we thought they were.

“That’s what I propose and I hope you won’t laugh it out of court.”

Gary Robinson concurs.

JW: How much legal work are we putting out to competitive tender and coul we do more? 

15:38 Only issues on the list for further debate today are neighbourhood support workers. Up for review now instead of assessment for implementation are road surfacing, the Lerwick Christmas trees, street cleaning, domestic bulky waste and the Viking Bus Station.

15:33 Jonathan Wills: would it be possible to run a single ferry on Yell Sound? That would save a very large sum of money. I think one of them should be mothballed, or sold, or I would like to see one of them used in Whalsay, though they can’t be used at those terminals.

It is possible to remove all the costs of the Bressay ferry by introducing a chain ferry. I have been going on about it for 10 years and I am getting a bit fed up. Maybe I shall start a chain ferry company myself. It’s a tiny fraction of the cost, why have we not looked at it.

Phil Crossland: Initial look shows it would be suitable for Category A,B,C waters. Lerwick harbour is Category D. Not convinced there is the saving from the capital expenditure. On Yell Sound you would save £1.1m a year if you sold one ferry, but doesn’t meet capacity on that sound. Saving reduced to £450,000 if brought in Fivla or the like, but would compromise relief service. These and other options will be in the review.

Jonathan Wills: thanks Phil Crossland for detailed answers to detailed questions, but still thinks a chain ferry can pay for itself. “Thanks for the effort that is going into this, at las.”

15:26 Caroline Miller: People realise ferry service is very expensive to run and are willing to pay within reason. Asks Crossland, will there be a discount ticket for elderly passengers and people on highest rate of disability go free.

Phil Crossland: intention was to allow free travel for the disabled, but we can make it just for the most disabled. Won’t introduce multi service tickets until after the review.

15:24 Now looking at a big one: ferries

15:22 Betty on skips: aabody isn’t elderly and infirm – if some of us have to sacrifice a few skips we can deal with it.

15:20 Jim Henry is worried about chewing gum problems. What can we do about them? “Shoot them,” Gussie mutters.

Bill Manson ha sjust noticed a threat to the rural skip service and warns it will lead to fly tipping again. It will be a retrograde step. That should be reviewed. 

15:18 Gussie Angus: I am aware bus station is well used and expensive to run. Could a voluntary organisation or a contractor run it for a lesser sum?

Allan Wishart: re.police issues at the bus station. That’s an exaggeration. Youngsters gather there and are boisterous, they just have nowhere else they want to hang out. They can appear to be threatening, but police report no real issues.

15:16 Allan Wishart: rural toilets cost £5,000 each. There has been a lot of concern about that. £3,000 cost is cleaning, and we should raise with community councils.

Street cleaners: maybe in Scalloway someone in the harbour could have a joint role. Both these should be up for review.

Bulky waste collection has caused a big reaction. I would like to move that on to review.

Viking Bus Station: we have to look at alternative options for freight. Given the reaction, I would like to see it under review.

15:13 Allison Duncan: it will have a detrimental effect closing the rural freight centre. Declares an interest as he uses it a lot. Why not keep it open on its busiest days and if we have to pay charges, let’s do it.

There’s been police issues there as well, so important you keep it open.

15:12 Gary Robinson said as far as rural toilets are concerned, “I’m just not going to go there”.

A lot of people in rural centres used to use Viking bus station for freight delivery on buses. As we see sharply rising cost of fuel, it could come into its own again when buses can take freight again.

15:11 David Sandison defends the single street cleaner in Scalloway. We want the village kept up to standard for the growing numkber of visitors and should look at it again.

15:10 Bill Manson defends the public toilets in Hillswick, the only one in Northmavine run by the council. Nearest one is Brae, it’s the equivalent of asking someone from Lerwick to go to Voe for a pee. Closing it would be a retrograde step.

Service offered at Viking bus station is a valuable one to rural residents and should be given careful consideration.

15:08 Jonathan Wills: closing rural toilets is a false economy, damaging to the tourist trade. If you closed the one at the Bressay pier you would leave the church with no toilet facilities.

Also doesn’t want to see any further reduction in street cleaning. A lot of opposition to change in bulky waste removel, that should be reviewed.

Viking Bus Station closure means targeting people who depend on buses. I think it’s an asset to the community, especially people on low incomes and in the country.

15:06 Sandy wants car parking review to take into account residents parking. Crossland said this would happen.

15:05 Betty Fullerton: everyone says we are burning too much on street lighting. I have been told there are problems and that there are ways around this. I would like to see this debated and if necessary that target (£25,000) increased.

Phil Crossland: It would be a 10 year payback for that, so instead reviewing replacement programme. Currently spend £183,000 a year on replacement. Evidence from mainland is that when you start turning them off you spend less, so energy company charge you more for what you use.

Betty: Thankyou very much but I’m still not convinced. 

15:01 The Christmas tree and lights for Lerwick, costing £11,400, has been saved. Cllr Grains says she was surprised how much setting up the Christmas decoration costs.

15:00 Laura Baisley: letting the standard of our roads deteriorate is a false economy.

Josie Simpson: there seems to be a lot of work being done on the verges rather tha the road. Phil Crossland explains that the main damage to roads comes from water, which is the reason why  so much work on verges and drainage is being done.

14:55 J Wills and C Miller: Neighbourhood support workers should be preserved..

Allan Wishart warns that it should initially be reviewed to improve the service.

Betty Fullerton: stopping the fuel poverty grant, worth £145,000, will make an impact on equality.

Cllr Wishart reassures fellow councillors that winter service in front to school buses etc will continue.

14:50 Frank Robertson: in contrast to councillor Allison Duncan who said money has been squandered over the last 25 years, he insists that money had been invested in care homes and many other facilities across the islands.

He warns of the detrimental impact any reduction in winter service would have to the elderly and those living in the rural areas.

Next on the list are infrastructure services:

14:45 Infrastructure services director Phil Crossland: number of easily implemented effeciency savings such as deleting vacant post and better managing sea staff can easily achieved.

Alastair Cooper: can we get a better ticketing system for public transport throughout the isles? Crossland confirmed that that would be part of review.

Gussie Angus: Problems with council’s asset disposal strategy: some of the assets are in process of becoming liabilities.

14:35 Neil Grant: despite £9m council cuts and the loss of 150 to 200 job so far, no detriment impact on Shetland economy has been detected. The private sector has been able to pick up the slack.

14:30 Concern over proposals to reduce public transport in rural areas and grant schemes to NAFC, SSQC and amenity trust by 10 per cent. These are now more likely to be reviewed rather than simply assessed.

14:25 Florence Grains: Cuts in development grants schemes goes against our policy.

Neil Grant: says he believes he can achieve the same result with less money.

Cllr Wills: I believe we have to reduce the amount of money we give out as grants and loans by a lot more. Time loans/grants are given to well  established industries such as the salmon farming industry is over.

Neil Grant: Significant improvements in broadband by next month.

14:18 Alastair Cooper: Total is working on a new gas plant, and that is mainly due to this council, and particular the work of council convener Sandy Cluness. There are also renewables on the horizon as well  as the prospects of broadband.

Next on the list is developming services, which has put forward savings of 6.4 per cent or £1.2 million. A non-statutory service, but according to dev chairman Alastair Cooper provides a very valuable service to the local economy.

14:12 Gussie Angus: gets assurance from development services director Neil Grant that subsidy to electricity bills for people in sheltered house will only be removed once people’s home have are receiving fuel poverty help.

14:10 Christine Ferguson says moving somewhere else would save very little.

14:04 Councillors Nickerson leaves the meeting.

J Wills: Could the Freefield service be provided from elsewhere, and if so, how much would be saved?

Christine Ferguson: Lunch club could be provided from elsewhere. Council needs to look at that, but savings would not be the same. She says it is her view that the council would not be able to continue providing it with the level of savings required.

J Wills: Council cannot afford to stop this service, and it should be provided from elsewhere. He will move accordingly once the debate had reached that stage.

Allison (Flea) Duncan: this is yet another attack on the elderly. State pension in this country is completely inadequate. Will back councillor Wills. 

14:00 Jim Henry: Freefield is not just been used by Lerwick folk. 

Laura Baisley: wonders if integration of north isles care would mean that a new care centre for Yell is off the cards. She receives assurances that that is not the case.

13:55 G Angus: unable to see how £2m could be saved from closing dedicated day care in older people’s care setting.

13:52 Gussie Angus: Voluntary sector reluctant to take over the Freefield lease. Concern that savings would affect the most vulnerable.

13:50 Council leases the building. In order to make savings the council would give up the lease. Councillor Wishart asks if the need of people who are using the Freefield facilty presently could be met elsewhere.

13:48 Freefield Service not available anywhere else in Shetland. The facility in Lerwick in much valued by the people using it. Ms Ferguson said that there are other care facilities in Lerwick for people to receive lunch. It could also be operated by the voluntary service.

13:45 Christine Ferguson for Social Services: Confident that effeciency savings can be achieved.

13:38 J Wills askes how much could be saved if sports and leisure services were to be transfered to Shetland Recreational Trust. He suggests £200,000 per annum.

13:33 Meeting resumes. Social care budget next. Committee chairman Cecil Smith introduces says the options put foreward will mean a reduction in services, but essential services will  continue to be delivered. There will be job losses. Hard decisions need to be made, and therefore he supports the service cut propoals put forward.

Summary of budget cuts debate so far.
 

* 21 councillors have agreed to revisit the Blueprint for Education to find savings of £3m on the schools estate. A refreshed document will be presented to councillors in August 2012.
* The new review will look at all the schools in Shetland, not just the five junior high schools in Aith, Sandwick, Whalsay, Skerries and Baltasound, or the primaries in Cullivoe, Burravoe, Skeld, Sandness, North Roe and Urafirth referred to in today’s report.
* Olnafirth primary remains on the table for consultation for closure as this has already been agreed, but put on hold by the Scottish government.
* Councillors raised several issues they wish to be addressed again, such as charging for the Janet Courtney Hostel and music tuition.
* The proposal to save £61,000 by cutting 1.4 full time equivalent social workers in the children and family team will be re-visited, with the savings sought elsewhere.
* Councillors expressed concern that they would end up debating everything twice because of the way the meeting has been organised. They are right, of the 24 different items up for discussion under children and families services, only eight have been agreed and 16 will have to be re-visited later today.
* Still up for discussion are community care, corporate, infrastructure and development services, as well as council-wide savings.

12:45 Now debating whether to break now for lunch. Betty suggests bringing in sandwiches and working until midnight if necessary. Rick moves they break until 1.30 for lunch. Gary seconds. Everyone agrees.

12:39 Betty sums up. Urges Helen Budge to take up Laura Baisley’s suggestion on new technology, issues to with child protection and look for £61,000 from elsewhere then a family support worker.

No one disagrees with need to take a fresh look at the Blueprint for Education, which will look at all schools in Shetland. Everything and anything is back on the agenda. A report will be made in August 2012 identifying how Shetland can save £3m on running its schools.

12:37 Gussie Angus: On maximum class sizes, Bell’s Brae has ASN attached. Parents council has made point if we change maximum class sizes, the ASN pupils can’t be accommodated in classes.

12:36 Bill Manson raises class sizes, especially in Lerwick.

Robert Henderson raises school closures. Has any provision been given for accommodation when there is no ferry between Yell or Unst?

Helen Budge: not looked at that in detail yet. 

12:33 Caroline Miller seeks clarification of where this meeting is going.

Allan Wishart says he is glad we are moving on as he has a meeting at 10am tomorrow morning. “I don’t think we should debate everything now and again later.”

Josie: It’s very difficult when people want to have a debate. Maybe I am not being strong enough.

12:29 Frank Robertson: Do we need two high schools?

Betty: I am sure that will be considered.

12:28 David Sandison supports a review of education, but can’t let Flea get away with ripping up the Blueprint. This is not about school closure, this about providing affordable education.

I don’t believe this is about shutting child care services, but changing the way we provide them.

12:25 Florence Grains: We have to look at every single school. How will the minister react if we come with more school closures?

Music tuition: If there is anything we are good at we pass it on. Knitting, music. Shetland music is one thing we are good at, I must admit I don’t agree with that one.

Josie: We can’t pass on the budget setting exercise!

12:22 Gussie Angus: I am struggling with the “refresh” of the Blueprint. If £3m remains the target, I fully support that. Helen is standing by closure of junior highs, but primaries will move in and out of criteria for closure. I have no concern going to the minister over JHSs, his concern is primaries.

Betty: We should save £3m across all education. All schools should be in, that gives Helen a wider remit and doesn’t tie her down to just closure of the schools listed here. You could end up with one high school or two high schools.

Rick: Closing all the junior highs will mean the Anderson High will have to be bigger.

Betty: We are getting into micro managing the service and we must not do that.

Rick: We can’t look at closures in isolation.

Josie calls them to order. Both apologise. 

12:14 Gary Robinson: As chair of childcare partnership he questions call to review it, saying it needs further discussion

12:13 Bill Manson: refreshing Blueprint is a good idea. He raises terms and conditions for supply teachers and giving depute heads a teaching role. They should be put together and put into the review.

12:09 Allison Duncan: why not close more schools. Hamnavoe, Tingwall and Nesting. We have void rooms in Scalloway. We are here to make savings, these three schools should be given high priority.

He also slams hostel charging. it will create a “two tier society”. It’s a “damn disgrace…it’s just not on. You are dividing this up into a two class society.”

12:07 Sandy once again questions the way the meeting is being chaired by Josie, saying they will end up debating every item twice.

12:06 Rick Nickerson: concerned we are predetermining reviews by putting figures on how much will be saved, eg. £2m on closing schools.

Rick brings up his old chestnut: music tuition. He wants this to be reviewed as well, before fees are increased “again”. A review was agreed before and has never happened.

He says the proposals do not link. If ASN is redesigned, how will bigger classrooms cope with extra ASN pupils?

We are looking at cloud cuckoo land if we propose to close four junior high schools with the current education ministry.

Music tuition cuts will destroy 40 years of work. If you go ahead with these cuts you won’t be able to provide the kind of entertainment we had at the Tall Ships. It takes 15 years for us to feel “the destruction of a service”.

I can’t accept for the first time in this council’s life we will charge people for their education by charging them to attend the hostel. We will introduce fee paying schools for the first time in Shetland.

12:01 Josie agrees with Rick. “If we don’t get on as we are we will get into a right dribble”

11:58 Legal eagle Jan Riise is concerned about progress of this meeting. He assures everyone that all “flagged” items will be “captured” for future discussion later today. We want to distil the unobjectionable things now.

Sandy Cluness: The problem is the items are being debated now.

Rick Nickerson: Let’s continue as we are, now that we’ve started.

This could go on for a long time.

11:56 Laura Baisley: The council is not taking full advantage of new technology for learning opportunities. I like the idea of a “refresh” of the Blueprint, but it’s abolutely crucial to look at other methods of delivering education, not just closing schools.

Re. cutting youth workers. This proposal might have a worse impact on rural areas where there is less going on. Let’s be careful we don’t do more harm to areas outwioth Lerwick with these blanket proposals.

11.52 Frank Robertson: I commend Councillor Fullerton’s motion that this be considered in its roundness. The guru is this Curriculum for Excellence and that can change with next government. This should be reviewed properly, but I’m dubious about having this completed in August.

“There is a distinct chill wind blowing under the table here” and it will take some time for the new council to deal with something so important to this community.

11:50 Helen Budge: Third psychology post would be additional and has never been filled! “It’s not a reduction in the service, it would be an increase to fill that post.”

Cutting family support service. There have only been two in post since September and that service has continued to be run effectively.

JW: Is psychology service coping?

HB: There has only been one in post recently. We will recruit to the second post shortly, which will be a 100% increase on what we’ve had for the past year.

JW: Family support worker continues to be run, but is it not without a lot of unpaid overtime and stress.

HB: It’s a balance between when things are busy and quiet.

11:46 Sandy suggests changing the way the meeting is run so they vote as they go along. General muttering of agreement. Things are getting complicated.

11:45 JW: won’t support the loss of staff in psychology service. Out of school clubs, my inormation that working families get a first class service. To close this breaches council’s own corporate plan and government’s early years policy.

Holidays for ASN children and Blydehaven nursery should be protected.

Family support workers should not be cut. I am against redesign of ASN service, as “redesign is another word for cuts”.

I will come up with other ways to fund this from elsewhere.

11:40 Jonathan Wills: Unfortunately Gussie is right, we can’t delay it any longer.

11:40 Helen Budge: Olnafirth is different as we have your approval to go for statutory consultation on that. We would plan to start that review depending on outcome of CRE.

Gussie: I always said there was no way SIC could afford this network of schools. We spent 4 years on Blueprint, and now we are up against it. We should not fool the public, we are speaking about closures and consolidation of schools.

I think as far as this particular item goes this council has discussed it exhaustively in the past.

11:37 Gussie Angus: Are you likely to suggest shutting all the junior high schools other than Mid Yell.

Helen Budge: Junior high schools don’t fit in with Curriculum for Excellence, so possibly not, but within this proposal we said we would review it and will come back with a report before we do it. We must also take account of Commission on Rural Education (CRE).

Gussie: would the list of primary schools remain the same?
Helen: that remains to be seen.

11:34 Helen Budge, children and families head: We stand by savings we have proposed. We need to assess impact of losing the 1.4 FTE social worker.

Re. Blueprint of Education. There have been some changes since original report. That is under review and we would have to bring forward reports on that for you to decide. Timescales are tight, but we will take it forward in the way that you wish. 

11:31 Betty: I am not proposing any big changes to the efficiencies, which officers think they can manage. Two amendments to Appendix 3 (ie. service cuts).

She challenges reduction of 1.4 full time equivalent social worker in children and families. “I feel there will be problems in that assessment. Any reduction of current staffing levels will impact on service delivery.” It would save £61,000 over two years, but is only up for assessment.

I propose retaining post and find savings elsewhere in the department.

Also worried is temporary post of chief social work officer, which will undermine service. The service needs stability to protect vulnerable children.

Second proposal: revisit Blueprint for Education (ie school closures). I propose we undertake “a refresh” of all the existing information from the consultation taking account of the Commission on Rural Education and other national measures – the outcome would be to identify ways of saving £3m by August 2012.

This would allow staff to consider how to deliver education in a more affordable way. We need to save money to restore our reserves.

11:23 Buchan explains how meeting will proceed. Each committee chair will lead discussion of their committee items, starting with Betty Fullerton, chair of families and childrens services. There will be ample opportunity to debate every issue and a vote atthe end.

Betty wants to put forward new items and asks when voting takes place. “I just want to be clear what I am doing.”

Josie: “Idea is to take all the votes at the end so you will have the full picture. If you vote on department by department you won’t have the full picture.”

Jonathan: “I got the picture a while ago, thankyou. When did we agree this procedure?I thought we would go through this item by item. Some of us spent days going through this. You want to bunch it all togeher at the end. It’s your meeting but I protest.”

Betty: “I’ll kick off and see how we go.” 

11:15 Jonathan: We do need a press officer, but only one. We need to improve internal communications, the website needs to be redesigned and that is happening (and I’m impressed with what I’ve seen). But people should not hear about budget cuts through the media first.

11:13 Rick Nickerson: Every time we save money there are new cost pressures. Seven of cost pressures for coming year are new projects, despite call for no new growth. £7.6m of new pressures will virtually wipe out any new savings we make this year. Wehave gone through extremely painful process to save money, why are we paying for new staffing for communications unit, cost of North Ness ofice, £7-800,000 extra ferry costs despite call for a review.

AB: Explains some of the money is an accounting process. We have no choice over police and fire. North Ness figure comes from the decision to build it a few years ago, which will be mitigated by sale of other properties. A communications service has long been agreed.

11:09 Hazel: Looking towards no draw on reserves by 2013/14. Savings of £26m over two years. If we continue to spend at current level they will dry up in 3-5 years. I am very pleased to present suggestions for savings of around £30m.

Budget proposals are £9.6m higher than income. I am assuming members will agree all the efficiencies before you. If you are not accepting any efficiencies here you must accept other savings to make up the difference.

Budgets are robust and well developed. I think it’s a rerally good first go at the budget review.

11:03 Betty Fullerton: chairmen of committees also have ideas. I do think we have to hear Hazel and then a discussion for each committee.

11:01 Jonathan Wills: What is lacking here is a political direction. Chief executive said it’s fair to all, but chief executive department has 0% cuts compared to average of 16.6%. There will be casualties, mostly very young, very old and the poor in the town and the country. We need to look at some big ticket items. Will you accept suggestions, before we go through little items that will hit the most vulnerable.”

Josie: “Once we have been through that list and you have some ideas, you will be alllowed to do that.”

10:58 Gary Robinson: “I read through papers with interest and a good deal of trepidation. It’s stark but the day of reckoning has been a long time coming.” Quotes former Edward Thomason of dangers of spending too much too soon between 1990 and 1994.

“I have difficulty to support cuts in rural areas. I recognise need for cuts, but disappointed at call to revisit single status. Deal we met was recognised nationally. Real problem is not single status, it’s hundreds of additional staff this council has employed. It was not budgetted for and that’s the problem.”

10:55 Allison Duncan: This is a result of mismanagement over many years. It appears to me unions and management are poles apart. I believe we are going to fast in our discussions and I think we need to give it a year longer to deal with them more amicably.

Unions should not come rpound table with negative attitudes. Do you agree you should give them a year longer, but the unions must have more reponsibility.”

AB: “It’s wholly understandable these tensions will arise. We need to commit to regular dialogue with unions and staff.” 

10:52 AB: It’s commendable managers have identified £10m efficiencies. Need to work with staff and unions to redouble our efforts on how these savings are implemented, to keep compulsory redundancies to an absolute minimum.

“All the savings need to be achieved to avoid a black hole in our finances. Clearly it’s not lilkely every saving identified will be achieved. Changing services takes time, sometimes years, always challenges. A great number of things will be necessary if we are to achieve this. Let’s see how far we get today, and see how it shapes strategy over the weeks and months to come.

“I include need for more community consultation, with community councils, voluntary sector and crucially, our staff.

“This council can’t afford to alow a black hole to appear in its budget and that would be far more damaging thank achieving these savings today.” 

10:48 “On a lighter note”, Alistair Buchan announces he lost his wallet this morning, before addresses councillors. “But the answers are not in my wallet!”

Report today is very different, complex, covers almost every single aspect of the council. Seriousness is self evident. It’s important all services are treated equally.

Need both efficiency savings and service changes. Cuts so far have been efficiencies, now we need to look at services. 

10:43 Josie: Our key objective is to keep reserves at a reasonable level. If we keep on spending as we have been doing resreve fund could run out in as little as 5 years time. If we allowed that to happen cuts we propose now would be nothing compared to what we would have to do.

Easy thing would be to do nothing and leave hard decision to incoming council. If we did that we would be walking away from our responsibilities.

We are focussed on the future. Decision we take today  will hve consequences for the future. If we don’t take decisions today we won’y have money to maintian current facilities, let alone anything new. Short term pain, for long term gain.

10:41 Now the big one. Sandy hands over the chair to Josie, who has been leading the budget cutting exercise. Josie: “I don’t know if I should thank you. We have a very, very big task ahead of us today, but we here to get something out of this at the end of the day.”

10:39 Laura Baisley brings up the empty houses in Unst. We should lobby to get something done with those houses.

Jonathan: “Should we defer sending delegation to next council meeting after what Cecil said?”

Agreed unanimously. 

10:37 Jonathan: If we didn’t build the houses there would have been no money for Thatcher to beat the miners. It was made on the clear understanding it would be repaid. Should we build on contact made by Cllr Duncan with chancellor to send a delegation to try and sort this out, along with our Liberal Democrat friends in the coalition.” Gary Robinson seconds.

Cecil Smith: “Minister is waiting a report from civil servants. We should wait until that report comes before we stage an attack. We should be fairly careful how we handle it.” 

10:34 Now discussing housing revenue account. Shetland is only council to get housing support grant because of oil era housing debt, but that grant is likely to be withdrawn. Sandy Cluness says various efforts to write off debt have failed. “We have high rents, but houses are of a high standard.”

Gussie: “This is only debt Shetland has. Last housing minister said if I had £40m last place I would give it to is Shetland. Latest minister is less implacable. We shifted focus to Westminster who imposed debt, who had to go into archives to find it. I don’t see why we shouldn’t continue negotiations with Westminster, after Flea met George Osbourne at the airport. We have to pull out every political stop we can to have debt removed or housing supprt grant continued.”

10:27 Alastair Cooper wins the  vote 13/6. £2m goes into pension fund this time round.

10:26 Betty Fullerton: “Is that £1m a year for 8 years?” Jonathan: “Yes. Why are we involved in Sullom Voe. To protect the environment, maintain highest safety standards and make money for the people of Shetland. Limit to £1m and review it every year.”

Alastair: “I believe we are acting prudently, need to protect superannuation and general fund. We have money, we put it in when we have it, not when we don’t have it. It’s a reasonable proposal when £5m comiing in.” 

10:22 Hazel: “My intention was to leave flexibility. I absolutely accept that has to be reviewed year on year. In future years you may be able to use another source to top up the pension fund.”

Jonathan moves halve contribution to £1m next year. Bill seconds. Alastair moves recommendation for £2m: “We have to move to a short, medium and long term view of Sullom Voe if we are going to make it successful going forward.” Sandy seconds: “We are all in the same boat, only difference is £1m or £2m.”

10:19 Bill Manson: “I wonder about the rate we do it. It’s right to prioritise pension fund, but what about taking longer. Cash flow is going to be important over the next spell.”

Alastair Cooper: “£5m profit next year is one off. Schiehallion goes down next year, won’t be back on until 2015 or 2016. I don’t think harbour account is going to make £5m a year. 10 tankers makes £900,000. Won’t take many not come to have an impact. Need to wait until throughput goes up – we won’t manage £2m a year over next 4 years.”

10:16 Gussie Angus: “Are we legally obliged to pay this?” Legal chief Jan Riise says: “Yes.”

Jonathan Wills: “What damage if we deferred this?” Hazel: “Been on the table since 2009, but only now unresolved decisions have come together where we can make a recommendation. If we don’t we need to revaluate the pension fund. If we revaluate then employers’ rate will go up and spread cost across whole council and affect services.” 

10:10 Finance chief Hazel Sutherland says the harbour should pay the £7.6 funding gap in the Shetland Towage pension fund. “The SIC has the choice how to pay for it, not whether to pay for it.”

10:08 There are 21 councillors present. Addie Doull is unwell; however most of these councillors will not be standing at the next election, after which any savings have to be implemented. 

There have been protesters outside, notably from Freefield Centre. They are being forced to sit upstairs and view proceedings via videolink because the council chamber is so full. 

10:04: Gary Robinson has cheered everyone up by sayng Shetland has two athletes trialling in the Olympics – swimmer Andrea Strachan and fencer Stephen Rocks.

Convener Sandy Cluness has warned that councils throughout the country face a tough ten years ahead.

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General Election - 12 December 2019