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Money talks as councillors take part in budget seminars

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND’s councillors have received private seminars over the last week as they get advice on how to set next year’s budget.

Council leader Steven Coutts reiterated that one of the priorities is securing ‘fair funding’ for internal ferries from the Scottish Government again – something he says which is “absolutely crucial” for the local community.

It comes on the back of a medium-term report presented by former finance chief Jonathan Belford in August which warned that the council should look to deliver £15.6 million in cost reductions over the next five years.

This is due in part to expected reduced core funding from the Scottish Government, rising costs and inflation.

The budget for 2019/20 will be the first under the helm of new finance manager Jamie Manson, who was appointed in September.

Shetland Islands Council is also asking for around £8 million from the Scottish Government for the fair funding of inter-island ferries for 2019/20.

The SIC received £5 million for the current financial year for running its ferries, although this was around £2.5 million less than first hoped.

Council leader Coutts said the seminars have allowed councillors to “collectively discuss our priorities for next year”.

“These sessions have been focused on outcomes we seek and how to achieve the best for our community with the full extent of resources we have,” the westside councillor added.

“We have discussed early indications of where there are areas of growth in demand or the cost of providing services. For example the ageing population, delivering government commitments and inflationary pressures such as wages and energy costs.

“We have a very clear expectation that we will receive full ferry funding. It is absolutely crucial to our community that this is delivered.

“We do not know at this stage what the exact level of local government grant will be but we would expect a settlement that allows us to provide for the needs of our community.

“We will only get an indication of budget settlement after 12 December when the budget bill is before parliament. At that stage we will reflect where we are at.”