Council / Ferry and road maintenance could be affected as SIC considers ways to reduce costs

Shetland Islands Council has released a list of options due to be considered by elected members in the budget setting process

St Ringan's council chamber. Photo: SIC

THE COUNCIL has released a list of some of the options which elected members will consider when setting next year’s budget – with warnings made about the potential deferral of ferry maintenance as well as other reductions in services.

It comes amid “reduced government funding, high inflation and rising demand for services” – as well as increased costs.

Also in the list is the idea of moving to maximum class sizes in all primary settings, which could mean more composite classes.

Also mooted is the consideration of moving to a three or four weekly waste collection, and reviewing road maintenance and grass cutting.

There is also the prospect of council tax rising by as much as 7 per cent, which will be decided on at a meeting on 22 February.

Another way of increasing income could also be to use the Anderson High School halls of residence as holiday accommodation and school carparks for caravan parking in the holidays.


A short survey has also been issued to allow the public to have some input in the process.

Shetland Islands Council says its shortfall between 2023 and 2026 is expected to be around £106 million.

There is still uncertainty over exactly how much the Scottish Government will give the council in core funding for 2023/24 – and there is a possible £5 million deficit looming in running internal ferries.

There have also been warnings made over the years about the council using its reserves to balance the books.

The council’s budget will be set in March, and the local authority has given an insight into some of the options which are likely to be considered by elected members.

If the council does not have its deficit in running its inter-island ferry covered in full, then maintenance of the ageing vessels could be deferred.

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The local authority may also seek to pursue ‘fair funding’ for its internal air service, and seek external funding for fixed link business cases.

There are a number of possible reductions in service mentioned.

SIC political leader Emma Macdonald. Photo: Shetland News

This includes reducing bed numbers in some care settings, and reviewing ‘safe staffing’ levels, to ensure the council can free staff to support more care at home is also mentioned.

Other options include reducing play area maintenance and reviewing swimming tuition as part of the PE curriculum.

The disposal of buildings is also given a mention.

The council also said it wants to change the way it deals with recruitment problems by checking firstly if a post really needs to be filled.

Council leader Emma Macdonald said: “We know that the decisions we take in March are likely to have an impact on services across the council in future.


“As those get underway, we’ll be speaking to those affected to get their views, but in the meantime we’re looking for the community’s thoughts on a potential rise in council tax ahead of our meeting later this month.

“We’re laying out the cost to householders and the potential benefits to council income from a range of options.

“We do understand that everyone is facing economic pressures at the moment, and we’re very mindful that as a council we need to make sure we’re doing all we can to bring our spending in line with the resources available to us, so I’d encourage everyone to take ten minutes to look at the survey.”

The full list released of options due to be considered by councillors is as follows:

Children’s services 

  • Move to maximum class sizes in all primary settings (which could mean more composite classes)
  • Review swimming tuition as part of PE curriculum 
  • Review access to speech and language therapy through Children’s Services
  • Reduction in play area refurbishment
  • Investigate a hub-based model for youth clubs
  • Investigate the use of halls of residence for holiday accommodation, and school carparks for caravan parking, during school holidays

Infrastructure services

  • Defer ferry maintenance (if full ferry funding from Scottish Government is not in place for 2023/24)
  • Increase tanker charges at port of Sullom Voe
  • Consider moving to 3 or 4-weekly waste collection
  • Review road/pavement maintenance and gritting
  • Review grass cutting and maintenance of green spaces

Development services

  • Review – bus/transport contracts, and support schemes for local businesses and community groups.
  • Review – use of annual returns from the Crown Estate (c £1.5 million)
  • Pursue external funding for development of fixed links business case
  • Increase income from Shetland Telecom 
  • Pursue Fair Funding for internal air service

Community health and social care

  • Review our use of Self Directed Support, including direct payments, to make sure we are giving people choice, and meeting their needs in the most effective way.
  • Review our models of social care across the different areas of Shetland to make sure we are delivering an equal and appropriate service to everyone in our community.
  • Reduce bed numbers in some care settings, and review our ‘safe staffing’ levels, to make sure we can free staff to support more care at home.
  • Reduce reliance on agency workers – through investigating modern apprenticeships, being flexible around roles and contracts, and more focussed when recruiting.
  • Increase charges for day care meals, meals on wheels, telecare provision, and review residential care charges.

Corporate services

  • Reducing the number of council assets – e.g. disposal of buildings
  • Developing more digital solutions – e.g. developing more self-service systems for customers
  • Increase income through shared services with external organisations

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