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Potential savings worth nearly £15m identified

A report on the service redesign programme says that a "large proportion" of the £14.4 million identified depends on decisions outwith the council’s control, such as increased funding year on year for internal ferry services from Scottish Government. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council has identified where around £14.4 million of potential savings could be made over the next five years as the local authority looks to tackle an anticipated funding gap.

A report due to be presented to councillors next week on its ongoing service redesign programme says there is still £5.6 million in savings to be found.

Councillors were previously told that, based on current information, the local authority needs to achieve savings of £20 million over the next five years – a reduction of expenditure of 4.5 per cent year on year – as it faces decreasing core funding from the Scottish Government.

As part of the budget setting process for this financial year, service redesign savings of £1.9 million have already been identified for 2018/19, the report said.

This includes a £200,000 reduction in funding given to the health and social care partnership integration joint board (IJB), which was earmarked for mental health – but members could divert that savings elsewhere in the IJB.

The report added that “saving targets are in addition to absorbing increasing costs from salary increases, inflation, energy costs etc – therefore there is more to do to identify areas where savings can be made.”

Among the actions which feature in the service redesign programme are establishing what is required for a sustainable inter-island flight network and exploring ways to reduce the costs of the public bus service.

Another action is to “establish a means of ensuring revenue and capital funding is available to support the continued provision of inter-island ferry services and, where proven to be a viable alternative, the provision of fixed links.”

Also on the agenda is exploring the opportunities for shared services, a gritting review, the council going ‘paperless’ and reviewing and redesigning the council funded mental health support services at Annsbrae.

The report by corporate services director Christine Ferguson adds that “we must also encourage everyone to challenge things that do not add value, both large and small and to say, ‘No’, more often or at least explain what other things will not get done if a lower priority task is undertaken.”

A service redesign programme sounding board including council committee chairs, SIC leader Steven Coutts and chief executive Maggie Sandison has been proposed.

A report on the council’s draft outturn position for 2017/18, which is also due to be presented at meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, states that the total net draw from reserves for the year was £8.5 million.

This was £8.665 million less than what was budgeted for.

The main underspend for the council in 2017/18 was through the general fund, which was £3.605 million under budget.

The report says “this has been achieved through a combination of reduced service spending, underspend of the cost pressure and contingency budget and increased income, in particularly from economy development investments”.