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Ferry, gritting and lighting cuts on the table

CUTS to ferry services, road gritting and street lighting to help Shetland Islands Council make huge savings over the next two years are on the table at a series of drop in sessions this month.

Local people will be asked how important individual services are to their communities to help councillors prioritise where cuts will have to be made.

Savings are being targeted across the board as the council strives to slash spending by a huge 15 per cent to stop eating up its valuable oil-funded reserves.

The council saved £11.5 million, more than £2 million above target, largely by identifying internal efficiencies. Despite that, the council says it is losing £100,000 a day.

Now the task is getting tougher, with changes to front line services being scrutinised.

In February councillors decided to review more than 50 services, and now staff from infrastructure services are taking thier part of that review out to the public in a series of 12 drop in sessions across the isles.

Top of the agenda will be ferries, one of the council’s most expensive services costing £12 million a year, which faces the additional challenge of ever increasing fuel prices.

So far staff, councillors and residents have come up with 68 possible measures to save money, 25 of which have been described as “significant”, by SIC transport executive manager Michael Craigie.

“We are looking at altering timetables, different methods of delivery, split shifts and even single ferry runs,” Mr Craigie said.

“At this stage we don’t know to what extent there will be changes to any of the services, and what we really need is to have a really good idea of what people’s priorities are so that councillors can make informed decisions.”

The council is hoping to cut its ferries budget by £1.7 million and road gritting by at least £300,000. Other services being targeted to save a few tens of thousands of pounds are street lighting, community skips and rural toilets.

Environment and transport committee chairman Allan Wishart emphasised that people should not underestimate the potential impact of future savings decisions.

“Councillors must have the best information available, before taking decisions which will have significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods,” he stressed.

“I know the whole concept of ‘consultation’ might have a bad reputation for some people – but I can’t emphasise enough the seriousness of the financial situation facing the council, and the need for the public to get involved in this process.

“It’s no longer a case of whether or not we make cuts – but where those cuts can be made fairly, and with the least impact.”

More details of the proposed cuts will be published on Shetland News later this week.

Drop-in sessions will take place:
Symbister Hall – Thursday 14 June, 4pm to 8.30pm
Mid Yell Hall – Friday 15 June, 4pm to 8pm

Baltasound Hall
– Monday 18 June, 3pm to 8pm
Bressay Hall – Tuesday 19 June, 4pm to 7pm
Walls Hall – Thursday 21 June, 2pm to 7pm
Fetlar Hall – Friday 22 June, 4.15pm to 7.15pm
Lerwick Town Hall – Saturday 23 June, 2.30pm to 5pm

Cunningsburgh Hall – Tuesday 26 June, 2pm to 7pm
Brae Hall – Wednesday 27 June, 2pm to 7pm
Scalloway Hall – Thursday 28 June, 2pm to 7pm
Tingwall Hall – Saturday 30 June, 2pm to 5pm

Papa Stour – Wednesday 4 July, 10.30am to 12.30pm

Specific dates for Skerries and Fair Isle are to be arranged. No session is being held on Foula as there are no further cuts being proposed there.

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