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Council / Council holds string of meetings prior to budget debate

SHETLAND Islands Council is holding a slew of meetings prior to Tuesday’s budget setting meeting of the full council.

Councillors are expected to approve committee papers outlining the overall budget programme for each department for 2019/20 before consideration by the SIC.

The council is having to contend with a paired-down proposed settlement from the Scottish Government of £87m while juggling pay rises and increased statutory ring-fenced delivery programmes for inter-island ferries, education and social work.

Finance chief Jamie Manson has proposed a three per cent rise in council tax and increased rents as well as a £25 million draw-down from SIC reserves.

Education and families is the biggest draw on council funds.

Education and families, which accounts for nearly 45 per cent of the council’s £114m budget, is looking to exceed last year’s spend by £507,000 to £44.945m, owing to growth in service. The figures also take account of a pending three per cent pay award, for which non-teaching staff will have to be paid for by the council.

The environment and transport committee is being asked to approve £22.4m for infrastructure services and £6.7m for the transport planning service. The budget includes an anticipated shortfall in internal ferry support of £2.94m, although talks with the Scottish Government are ongoing on this.

The policy and resources committee, which meets on Tuesday and looks after the most diverse array of council services is expected to approve £22.028m for health and social care.

The vast bulk of that money, £22.004m, is allocated to the Shetland Islands Health and Social Care Partnership Integration Joint Board (IJB) for social care services, with a further £15,000 allocated for external audit fees.

The committee is also asked to approve a £12.596m allocation for executive and corporate services, including £1.387m for fund management fees.

The development committee will be asked to approve £6.912m for development services – the biggest chunk of the directorate’s £13.644m budget.

The development committee is the only one being asked to look at a budget that is less than its target, with £904,000 in savings making for a positive balance sheet.

But a delay in the merger of Shetland College and NAFC Marine Centre till next January has also delayed anticipated efficiency savings of £250,000. Shetland Telecom is also expected fall short of its sales target for the year by £69,000.

Shetland College Board is looking at a break-even position for Shetland College with the council having to fund Train Shetland to the tune of £260,000.