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Council / Cost and education concern as councillors reject coronation holiday

The coronation of Charles will take place in London on 6 May. he is seen here in Lerwick during a visit in July 2021. Photo: SIC

COUNCIL workers will not be given a bank holiday on the Monday after the King’s coronation in May.

Elected members were unanimous in their decision at Shetland Islands Council’s policy and resources committee meeting on Monday.

The coronation of King Charles is taking place on Saturday 6 May, and the UK Government has called an additional bank holiday on Monday 8 May, during which people are encouraged to volunteer in their local areas.

In Scotland, national holidays are a devolved matter for councils to decide on.

The council had no obligation to recognise 8 May as a public holiday, but there was the suggestion that not providing an extra day off might affect staff morale.

A number of options were presented to members of the policy and resources committee regarding the status of council workers on 8 May.

This ranged from ‘do nothing’, where anyone wanting to get off work to mark the coronation would need to request leave, to calling an additional public holiday – at a cost of more than £90,000 – where the council shuts for all non-essential services.

During the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations last year the council agreed to move the post-Up Helly Aa holiday to June as there was no fire festival.

The council also recognised a one-off bank holiday for the Queen’s state funeral.

At Monday’s meeting North Isles councillor Robert Thomson said he was happy to approve the ‘do nothing’ option – and he gained support from all of his colleagues.

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He questioned the merit of giving out a holiday a couple of days after the actual coronation, and said Shetland’s volunteering credentials were already well established.

Members also stressed concern over the prospect of pupils losing a day of school.

The cost of calling a full public holiday was also a key issue given that the council has warned the community it will need to make reductions to services to save money in 2023/24.

Depute leader Gary Robinson said he has had people contacting him over whether council services would be running on the Monday rather than anything related to the coronation – “so I think that for me shows where the concern really lies”.

Both Lerwick South councillor Dennis Leask and Shetland Central member Davie Sandison, who chairs the council’s education and families committee, spoke against the idea of children losing more time in school.

Sandison for example referenced adverse weather, which saw schools close for a number of days in December and January.

He also said he was “very concerned” with where children’s education is at right now.

“We’ve lost a significant amount of days for various reasons over the last while,” the councillor said, referring to “lost time” in the recovery from the Covid pandemic.

As such Sandison said he did not think the council could justify another lost day of learning.

North Isles member Duncan Anderson said he felt to award an additional holiday would “undermine” the message the council is putting out around budget pressures.

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