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Council / More home working a possibility for council

Shetland Islands Council headquarters at North Ness. Photo: Shetland News

THE IDEA of having more people working from home in the long-term – and reducing the amount of commuting as a result – is part of Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) thinking as it plans how services might be delivered in the future.

Chief executive Maggie Sandison said the local authority needs to find the “right balance” as working from home is not for everybody.

Council staff have been working from their homes where possible during the coronavirus pandemic.

It is estimated that the SIC will save around £500,000 in energy costs in the four months from March to June as buildings remained closed.

There is also an estimated £360,000 saving in fuel from inter-island ferries operating to a restricted timetable.

Sandison said there are no figures yet as to the positive carbon impact on the council’s operations after the lockdown was imposed in March.

“One of the things we have been talking about in our restart plans for services is actually about whether we go back to how we delivered services in the past,” Sandison said.

“Traditionally everybody travelled into an office or travelled to their place of work. But having managed to deliver adequately without bringing everybody into offices, and with the route map from the government talking about people still working from wherever they can, the use of our estate will be part of our discussions.”

The council chief said the SIC is planning for the potential of a future wave of the virus, and is preparing social and physical distancing measures for when services do return back to some sense of normality.

“It’s not easy for people to work from home,” she added, “and there’s a real difficulty about some of the things we find easy in an office.

“Working together on projects can be really challenging, sharing information can be really challenging. People can feel really isolated and it can have an impact on their wellbeing.

“So we need to find the right balance for people.”

Chairman of the SIC’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson, meanwhile, said research shows that global daily CO2 emissions are down compared to last year as a result of countries going into lockdown.

However, he said the climate emergency still remains a major issue.

“Although quite rightly all efforts have gone into helping the NHS and combating the virus, the global climate emergency is very much still there,” the councillor warned.

“The SIC’s strategic outline programme for climate change was approved back in January 2020. Action is still required, and we cannot be complacent.

“As a council we will continue to show leadership in the face of the global climate emergency.”