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Council cuts starting to bite

Councillors will meet for a series of meetings on Thursday and Friday.

COUNCILLORS in Shetland will this week face difficult decisions to deliver ambitious cost cutting targets.

To avoid running out of funds altogether, Shetland Islands Council has to save more than £30 million by March 2014.

As part of this programme, councillors are being asked to slash the economic development budget by more than 50 per cent to £2.6 million, and reduce the cost of schools by £3.4 million

Funding for the Shetland Museum and Archives, initially proposed to be cut by 35 per cent, is set to o down by 10 per cent over three years.

Other proposed savings include:

  • closing of the Viking bus station (£80,000);
  • withdrawing rural community skips saving (up to £70,000);
  • restructuring the isles’ youth service (£150,000);
  • shutting five of Shetland’s 40 rural public toilets and transferring responsibility for others to community groups or different council departments (£90,000);
  • reducing sport and leisure services (£100,000);

They will also consider proposals to increase council house rents by 5 per cent and increase landing charges for the Scottish Ambulance Service at Tingwall airport.

On Tuesday, council leader Gary Robinson emphasised the need to maintain the momentum of saving money while avoiding “wherever possible” compulsory redundancies.

“The reality of the situation is that the council has driven a lot of savings out of efficiencies, but it is becoming tougher and tougher to make the vast amount of savings needed,” he said.

“Up until now we haven’t really taken that much out of services, but we are getting to a point now where there is very little left to take.

“Any savings that we do make are likely to impact on services.”

The council has shed almost 300 posts over the last two years through voluntary redundancy and early retirement.

“What we have done up until now is to avoid compulsory redundancies, and it is something I hope we will be able to continue to do,” he said.

Meanwhile, concerned islanders have started a petition to save the Viking bus station from closure at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/779/076/786/save-the-viking-bus-station/

There is also a Facebook site at: www.facebook.com/pages/Save-the-Viking-Bus-Station/143447702480018

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