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Council / Council looking to do more energy efficiency work in-house

THE COUNCIL is proposing to recruit a number of new staff members to carry out energy efficiency projects in-house.

The idea is to overcome problems with getting contractors in to do the work.

The project – which would involve 12 full-time equivalent staff members including joiners, painters, electricians and plumbers – would cost £438,000 and it could cover both the council and across the community.

The hope is that it would help the push to reduce Shetland’s fuel poverty rate by increasing the availability of local labour.

Environment and estate operations manager Carl Symons said there was also a focus on supporting the ‘just transition’ away from oil and gas by reskilling the workforce in new renewable technologies.

A meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee heard on Tuesday that getting apprentices into the team was a key aim, and using retired staff as mentors has also been mooted.

Symons said: “At this stage we envisage that these costs will be met by a combination of grant income but some may be attributable to the capital maintenance programmes if these are carried out ‘in house’.

“The final balance will be dictated by who we can recruit.”

He added that some of the other main advantages would be local maintainability, fast and efficient service support and access to government frameworks.

If approved the council’s external contractor budget would be reduced as a result.

Infrastructure director John Smith told Tuesday’s meeting that the council would continue with the contract and tender route until the new team has the required capacity.

Meanwhile the council is also looking to employ more sea staff in ferry operations. The budget for 2022/23 includes provision for an extra 5.89 full-time equivalent employees.

Smith said this cost will be paid for in full from the SIC’s ring-fenced ferry funding from the Scottish Government. He said there was a need for more staff to ensure maintenance and safety levels are kept up.

But he hinted that the council would explore whether having these potential new staff could result in “additional effectiveness” in how ferry services will run.

The proposed budgets for the services which report to the committee comes to £42.5 million, and this includes around £1 million in savings.

But Shetland Central member Davie Sandison warned it should not be assumed all proposals in the council’s budgets will go through.

He said councillors face making some “tough choices” when they sign off the SIC’s overall budget next week.