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Council / Service redesign ’driven by continued reduction in funding’

SIC education and families committee chairman George Smith.SIC education and families committee chairman George Smith.

A COUNCILLOR says he is getting “fed up” of the council’s drive to redesign services amid need to find millions in savings.

George Smith laid the blame at reduced funding for the council and said it “really is time that the national and Scottish Government recognise the importance of local government”.

Members of Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) policy and resources committee heard on Tuesday that the local authority would need to find £22 million in savings over the next five years to create a sustainable budget.

One way of achieving savings will be through the SIC’s ongoing service redesign programme, although a report to councillors said it “must escalate the rate of change” if it is to achieve longer term financial targets.

Councillors were updated on the progress of the programme, with projects under this scheme including reviews of bus and air service contracts, continuing work on fair funding for ferries and early learning and child care expansion.

They were also updated on the council’s business transformation programme, which is more about making the way the council works internally more efficient.

This includes areas like IT equipment, accommodation rationalisation and information management and improvement.

The business transformation programme will “deliver processes and systems that will facilitate the service redesign programme”, a report to councillors said.

Smith said projects like service redesign were “by and large being driven by the continued reduction in Scottish Government funding”.

“I’m kind of fed up with continually having to look at service redesign and business transformation, where I think it can often be led by financial necessity rather than what I think would be absolutely acceptable, which is if it was about solely being motivated about improving outcomes,” the south mainland councillor said.

“Quite often we’re being driven to have to do things in a different way because we don’t have the resources to do it the way we’ve done it before.”

Council leader Steven Coutts said while it is a “challenge”, the council must remain focused on achieving the best outcomes for the Shetland community.