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Letters / The final straw

Open letter to all councillors

Dear All,

I write to you as a 27 year old family man, with two young children.

I have lived and worked in Shetland since I was eight years old, and in all my time here have never seen our beautiful island run in the shambolic state it is today, to be perfectly up front and honest.

This is something I never do, write letters of complaint to papers or people.

I would never complain about things if I was out and about, but events over the past 12 months or so have prompted me to write this e-mail.

The roads were the final straw for me.

Now, I am a reasonable person, and I understand, that the council is now under a lot of pressure to save money very quickly.

Basically the pressure to do this is due to the council’s lack of vision and pro activity in the last 20 years with the abundance of monies it has had at its disposal, not to mention the waste of this money on disastrous projects such as Smyril Line (£4m) and Mareel.

I believe we need one of these venues, but why does it need to cost this amount when the western isles built a similar venue for around £6m.

Now if the council were a business it would be very unsuccessful, because in order to be successful in business you must invest your money wisely, be proactive and save for the future as otherwise you may come into financial difficulty.

I just wonder if the money the council has invested at times had been the councillors’ own, would it have been invested? I think not.

So we are in this financial meltdown, even though we are (I think) the wealthiest council in the UK.

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You start cutting and proposing to cut vital services such as education (schools, and centralisation) ferry services (again leading to centralisation) and winter road services.

Education is one of the things that is great about Shetland. I was taught at Brae, one of the “safe” ones as it has a high school, I believe.

But it was my education in primary school that was second to none, and why I believe a lot of people probably consider coming here.

As an eight year old moving from a large school in Yorkshire I had a far superior education here to what I did or would have had on the mainland, due to the usual things – nice communities we live in, smaller class sizes, much more amenities etc.

Take all that away with centralisation and what do we have?

Possibly similar to what the mainland has, coupled with our ever growing drug problem on the island, particularly the “central point” Lerwick.

I would seriously have to consider taking my children away from here, because that “sell” on living here has been taken away.

Our fantastic communities are something I have not experienced anywhere else in the UK.

Again, centralise things and people will not want to commute (especially in the winter when journeys are longer due to less road services) and so places become less inhabited, and the character of Shetland starts to disappear.

All of a sudden all the things that really are good about this island aren’t as they were. And then the roads.

Well, “outraged” is the word.

I was driving on Tuesday night at 40mph, in a straight line, not braking, on the main Lerwick to Brae road, and the wheels nearly went from under me. Why?

Well my windscreen was clean (usually a good indication that there is no salt on the road) and I had no grip. No gritters had been out I presume. All in the name of saving money.

I heard Allan Wishart on Radio Shetland on Tuesday night saying something along the lines of “this weather is exceptional circumstances, with rain and then it icing over with snow on top”.

Is that really exceptional in Shetland? Exceptional maybe six or seven times per year minimum I would say.

And as for “flexibility” on the gritting, you didn’t really answer that question, but basically your answer said: “We won’t deviate from the policy”.

So if it is horrific ice and gritters are needed, the policy is abided by, all in the name of saving money?

£370,000 per year will be saved, but what is the real saving? Or the real cost of all of this? A life? The hours or days lost by council employees because they cannot get to work? The extra work perhaps taken on by the NHS due to more accidents created?

More school closures (I see five schools closed on Wednesday morning; the roads aren’t that bad, but are just needing to be gritted!) The list goes on!

And now you are looking at making savings on the other vital services, all those things that make Shetland what it is, so good, so attractive.

How’s about starting with the following list and see how much that saves?

I would make a guestimate it would be in the millions:

1) Sick days and the council sickness leave policy as it is the most lenient policy of all or most private and public sector companies I have ever seen.
2) Bring pay rates in line with even other public services (basic administrative workers in the council start on around £16 or 17,000 per year, would I be right in saying?) whereas at the NHS the rate of pay would be around £13,000, banks around the same private sector probably £12 or 13,000.

Why would this be so unfair for people doing these types of jobs to be paid the same as everybody else, and in the process save the council a lot of money and help cut its budgets?

These would be at least two starting points.

It would be fair and would not affect people’s livelihoods and lives in general and would not impact on the great place that Shetland is.

A very concerned and passionate Shetland resident.

Ryan Jozwik

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