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Government forces SIC to tighten belt further

Midnight oil is being burned at Lerwick Town Hall aa councillors ands officials work out how to make extra savings after this week's shock of a 4.5 per cent cut to their government grant.

SHETLAND Islands Council faces a further £3 million cut to its budget next year following the Holyrood’s local government funding announcement this week.

A month ago the council was about to set a budget based on a forecast reduction of 1.5 per cent.

As a result Thursday’s news that it would receive 4.5 per cent less than this year has come as a major disappointment.

Finance secretary John Swinney said the SIC would be receiving £87.7 million next year, a reduced figure thanks to the austerity drive being enforced by the Conservative government in Westminster.

Fearing the impact the higher level of cuts will have on staff and frontline services, councillors are planning talks early next year in order to set a budget in February.

An attempt to establish next year’s spending was abandoned in November in favour of waiting until the government settlement was announced.

SIC leader Gary Robinson said the funding announcement was “extremely disappointing”, saying it would have “a wide ranging impact” in Shetland and across Scotland as a whole.

The disappointment is the greater as this council has been working hard on reducing expenditure to protect its oil reserves for future generations.

“This council has spent the past four years bringing its own spending under control, setting the first sustainable budget since the 1990s last year,” Robinson said.

“We are in a much better position than many other local authorities when facing these challenges.

“However, it is likely now that the austerity measures being enforced by the UK and Scottish governments will have an impact on local services.

“We will carefully consider the implications of today’s announcement, and come back together in the New Year to consider proposals on how to go forward.”