Comhairle announces budget agreement 2016/17

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Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has set its budget for 2016/17 with £1.439m amount of service savings.

The Comhairle was obliged to make the service savings as part of an overall package of £8.5m of savings because of a reduction in settlement funding of £4.5%.

A series of proposals were put forward for savings and consulted widely on across the Islands. A number of proposals have now been reconfigured in the budget put forward by Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell and seconded by Convener Norman A MacDonald.

These include reviewing the residential provision at Hillcrest which has been agreed on the basis that the Comhairle require to be satisfied with the transitional arrangements to a new service and that the saving be deferred to 2017/18. Savings from Stornoway bus station and public conveniences were not agreed on the basis that that a wider review of facilities be conducted including the possibility of franchising. The coffee shop in Stornoway Library will also be offered as a franchise.

Stornoway Abattoir will not close but charges will be increased and the future operation be considered. Evening bus services was not agreed as a saving.

The Comhairle agreed that discussions take place with the existing operator of the Stornoway-Benbecula air service with a view to revising the service to meet the community’s aspirations.

It was also agreed that as RET is now in place on the inter-island ferry services the Comhairle funded discount scheme would be discontinued.

A proposal to make savings on roads maintenance was agreed but only at 50% of the original target whilst consideration will also be given to how capital funds could be used to make up the amount. A proposal to reduce Community Council Social Grants was discarded but instead ward funding for members will be reduced to £5k saving £19k.

Itinerant teaching staff in Primary Schools will be discontinued although the staff are to be retained.

The potential for further savings by switching off all streetlights between May and October will be explored. Membership fees for the Comhairle’s Sports Centres discount scheme – Slàinte Math will increase and the Grounds Maintenance Contract will be reduced. A shared headship will be implemented for Lionel school and Sgoil an Taobh Siar.

Comhairle Leader Angus Campbell said: “This has undoubtedly been a difficult process for the Comhairle and our communities. Following extensive consultation we have listened carefully to our communities and their priorities - I believe that this has been reflected in the outcome of the Comhairle’s budget. This has been challenging and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. There is no sign of an end to austerity for local government.”