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Living Lerwick confident over future despite SIC funding cut

Lerwick's Commercial Street.

LIVING Lerwick is confident it will still be able to function despite Shetland Islands Council signalling its intent to reduce or withdraw its £20,000 a year core funding.

Director of development Neil Grant told councillors at Monday’s SIC development committee meeting that Living Lerwick, which aims to promote the town centre, will be “less resourced” than before unless it manages to secure other external funding.

But Living Lerwick manager Christena Irvine said that while there may be some changes going forward, she is confident the service will still be able achieve its objectives.

Grant said the reduction in funding is in line with cuts “across the board”, but he believes there is some dissatisfaction among town centre businesses.

“The town centre has been slightly critical of the council in doing that, and I can understand why,” he said after the meeting.

“I think in their minds…the town centre organisations maybe feel some of their funding has gone to displace some of the council activity.”

Living Lerwick previously secured funding from the likes of the Lottery and Lerwick Community Council, but the SIC cash was the largest grant it received.

“We didn’t know if [the council] is going to be able to give us anything this time,” Irvine said.

“We’ve not put in an application, but it’s not looking like they can support us to the same level they did before. You’re always intending to get external funding. We’d probably still be making an application – whether or not we get it, we don’t know.”

Irvine added that Living Lerwick has “learned an awful lot in the last five years” about how to do things for less money.

Another financial issue which has faced the organisation is the non-payment of levies, which which vary from £200 to £850 a year and are mandatory.

The SIC is tasked with collecting the payments from occupiers or owners of 143 non-domestic properties within the business improvement district (BID).

Irvine said on average 93 per cent of members have paid their levies over the last five years, which is two per cent less than the Scottish average. But the amount paying has dropped over the last couple of years.

“Every BID has issues with ones that didn’t vote for it, and then they don’t want to pay because they think if they didn’t vote for it, they don’t have to pay,” Irvine said.

A ballot to renew the BID for 2017-2021 will be held this summer, with the result due to be announced on 1 September.

The SIC, which pays £3,600 a year in levies, will vote in favour of continuing the BID and Irvine said a recent consultation showed that the “majority” of members should follow suit.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021