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More jobs to go as SIC scalpel comes out

Edward Thomason House, where the council is planning to redesign services to accommodate more people with dementia amidst uncertainty over staffing levels. - Photo: SIC

A FURTHER 300 jobs look set to go at Shetland Islands Council as it struggles to carry out surgery on its ailing budget to avoid bankrupting the authority within five years.

Unions confirmed on Thursday they had been negotiating job cuts for several months as Scotland’s wealthiest local authority attempts to stop the haemmoraging of funds from its savings account.

The council is almost on target to reduce spending by more than £15 million in the current financial year, with the same again being sought for the year ahead.

Both management and unions have pledged their main priority is to avoid compulsory redundancies as the 20 per cent savings are imposed.

The Shetland branch of local government union Unison said they had received general assurances on jobs in all areas apart from social care, where there had been a lack of information.

Unusually for the SIC, there was little debate on Thursday as the social services and development committees started a series of budget setting meetings culminating in final decisions being taken on 20 February by the full council.

The social services committee backed proposals to raise council house rents by five per cent and increase charges almost across the board in services like community care, sport and leisure.

Almost all services are being redesigned or reduced to bring down the social services budget by almost £3 million, roughly ten per cent of its annual spend.

A far more savage cut was supported by the development committee, with £3 million being taken out of the £5.5 million budget for supporting the local economy, which will hit the islands’ core industries.

Unison branch chairman Brian Smith

Shetland Amenity Trust will receive 10 per cent less to run the local museum, much less than the 35 per cent cut originally proposed.

If agreed by the full council, there will be some changes to bus and inter island air fares, and a whopping 80 per cent rise to £90 for a private taxi licence.

Discussing his concerns about job cuts, Unison local branch chairman Brian Smith said that while there had been assurances of no compulsory redundancies in general, there was concern about community care staff.

He told BBC Radio Shetland: “I am afraid in some areas we have had no information at all. Social care is a very large example of that.”

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The committee heard on Thursday that the social work department was still looking at the impact of job cuts in its care homes and care at home service.

The report said: “Given the high number of temporary contracts and vacancies the risk of compulsory redundancies being required is significantly reduced.”

The SIC has avoided compulsory redundancies over the past two years during which time almost 300 jobs have disappeared.

Council leader Gary Robinson said: “With voluntary redundancy and natural wastage I would hope we could continue in the way that we began and hopefully do this in a painless fashion.”