Cutting staff training; removing funding from outside bodies and stopping inter-island flights are just some of the options which will be looked at by the Comhairle as they move to make over £6million of savings.
At a meeting of the full Comhairle last night (Thursday), a long list of potential cuts was approved as the basis of a public consultation.
However Leader Angus Campbell stressed that any part of the budget could be discussed through the consultation process which will take the form of several community meetings with the public also invited to make submissions through letter, email or through their local councillors.
Twenty three of the 30 councillors carried out a scoring exercise on budget options which can be viewed here
The move to go to consultation with the options identified was challenged by the Comhairle’s SNP Group who said the public consultation should be on the whole budget.
In a statement following the meeting they said that the consultation was ‘seriously compromised’ because Councillors had already indicated where the cuts would follow prior to the consultation.
Cllr Rae Mackenzie stated “We have serious concerns that councillors - and soon members of the public – have not been presented with the full picture. What is being presented for consideration amounts to approximately 7% of the Comhairle spend and in the Chamber I’ve asked in the past why the remaining 93% was not being offered up for review and so is being hidden.”
SNP Group Leader Cllr Donald Manford added: “The public deserve better. If they are being asked for their opinion they have a right to be better informed and they are right to be wary of such consultations having seen what they amounted to over school closures and the previous budget setting process.
Cllr Philip McLean added “The Comhairle are simply going to be seeking public endorsement of pre-determined cuts. Like our fellow Councillors, we have looked through the proposed cost savings put forward in great detail but there is another way. We are disappointed that the leadership has not come forward with more innovative solutions to saving money – like further spend to save proposals, or using capital, or having projects waiting in the wings to attract additional funding. Other avenues must be looked at.”