ANYBODY considering standing for council should have a thorough read of the SIC’s medium term financial plan for 2021-2027 to get a firm handle on council finances, according to deputy political leader Emma Macdonald.
Her comments came after a lengthy council session in the town hall on Wednesday during which finance boss Jamie Manson was questioned on the various scenarios set out in his 31-page report, which concluded – once again – that the SIC was not living within its means despite having financial reserves worth some £440 million.
She was responding to a plea from Shetland Central member Ian Scott, who once again tried unsuccessfully to convince his fellow councillors that some of the council reserves should be used to fight austerity and fuel poverty – and perhaps even be invested in infrastructure such as fixed links.
Scott said he found it hard to believe that the SIC was considering further service cuts “while having £440m in the bank” and suggested that the council was pursuing this policy because “we want it and not because we have to”.
He found little support in the chamber for any proposal that could undermine the current reserves investment strategy, which is seen as vital to generate sufficient income to help the SIC balance its books.
Councillor Amanda Hawick said upsetting the investment strategy had the potential to jeopardise hundreds of council jobs that are dependent on the extra income from the reserves, while fellow Shetland Central member Davie Sandison warned that once taken out of the reserves every pound could only be spent once.
In his report, finance manager Manson projected that the council could afford a sustainable draw of £14.4 million (profits made from the investments without touching the core of the funds) from its reserves to balance the books in the 2022/23 financial year.
However, in the current financial year the SIC had to take from the reserves a further “unsustainable” £8.09 million in addition to the “sustainable” draw.
Meanwhile, Manson confirmed that the upgrade of the Levenwick road formed part of the £35 million of additional capital expenditure.
South End councillor Allison Duncan left a meeting of the policy and resources committee in protest on Tuesday after a report on the road project did not form part of the agenda.
Asked by fellow South End councillor George Smith on Wednesday, Manson said that the road project did indeed form part of the capital budgeting for 2022/23.
Manson said: “The outline business case was approved in November 2021 and the estimate for that is included in that £35 million. And, following the approval of the outline business case there is a provisional budget that has been incorporated in the investment plan, which will come before member in February.”
The SIC’s medium term financial plan 2021- 2027 can be found here.
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