My priorities are community care for the elderly and disadvantaged, education, housing and social work. For a decade now, the council has been using our oil reserve money to subsidise grandiose “legacy” projects and excessive costs. The council has about £100m a year to spend but it’s been spending over £120m. It’s like drawing on the capital in your deposit account, as well as the interest it earns, to bail out your current account overdraft.
Restoring the council’s solvency
As a result, we face a financial emergency. The crisis is actually worse than we thought it was when we re-organised the SIC last year. We should have gone further then and, if re-elected, I will suggest major savings on the council’s expensive central administration, while protecting services to the public as far as possible.
Until we restore the council’s solvency, we’ll have to put up with lower standards of road maintenance, less frequent and more expensive inter-island ferries, less money for leisure, recreation and the arts, and a reduced budget for economic development. Candidates who tell you otherwise are deluding themselves.
Shetland Charitable Trust
I will campaign for a directly elected, democratic majority on the Shetland Charitable Trust, which may soon have larger financial reserves than the SIC. If the expected profits from the wind farm come to pass, the value of the trust’s assets could more than double. So could its annual spending in the community. That public cash needs to be under public control, now more than ever.
The rump of outgoing councillor trustees who voted, on 15th December last, to replace an elected majority of trustees with eight hand-picked “trusties”, selected by just seven councillors, have some explaining to do. These Undemocrats’ proposed changes haven’t yet happened so, after this election, all 22 new councillors must automatically be invited to take their seats on the trust, as usual.
I propose that, when the trust meets, it should immediately submit a new, democratic, reorganisation scheme to the charities regulator. There is nothing in law to stop it.
The new council constitution, which I helped to draft, separates the work of Convener from the Political Leader or Vice-Convener. The new role of the Convener is above the day-to-day political wrangling. He or she is more than just an ambassador for Shetland and the impartial chair of the council: central parts of the job are to protect the constitution by making sure senior councillors stick to the rules, and also to protect independent “backbench” members who don’t hold powerful committee positions. This should curb cliques and cronyism.
Another reform I propose is that every council meeting should set aside time for public contributions, where any citizen who gives notice can address councillors and ask questions on any agenda item. This wouldn’t disrupt proceedings or damage the dignity of the council but it might help members to understand better what the voters want of them.
You can find more details of my election manifesto on my website www.jonathanwills.org/SIC/
If you’d like to discuss the election issues with me, please phone 07831 217 042 for a chat.