COMHAIRLE nan Eilean Siar have set their budget for the next year which includes a freeze on council tax for the fifth consecutive year.
At a meeting this afternoon (Wednesday), the budget was passed with only one challenge.
The SNP Group of councillors put forward an amendment which would see a freeze on the Community Care Service Fees and Charges for the year ahead which would be paid for by suspending the Comhairle’s legal challenge to the Scottish Government decision to retain four island schools.
This was rejected and in a further motion, the SNP Group suggested this could be funded by a drop in Ward Fund allocation for councillors – this was also rejected.
The Comhairle’s Policy and Resources Committee agreed earlier today to add £2,000 to the planned Ward Fund Allocation giving each councillor £7,000 rather than the planned £5,000.
Presenting the budget, Leader of the Comhairle Angus Campbell said they they had had to make some difficult choices with a budget gap of £3.3m.
Looking to the year ahead, he said: “We will spend a further £18m in 2012/13 on the Schools Project, with the two final schools, Daliburgh and the Nicolson Institute, opening in August. This is probably our single biggest achievement as a Comhairle.”
He added: “Despite concerns over the contract over 70 local contractors have benefited from an estimated £19m of business from the £51m of schools project spend to date. This is an achievement of which we can be proud.”
He said by the end of this council next month, in addition to the £83m schools programme, they would have invested £84m in other projects.
He said setting the budget would be challenging once again in the years ahead and recommended that the Comhairle looked at a two year budget next year to provide some certainty and forward planning for services and staff.
“Within the constraints we have faced I think we have achieved a lot in this Comhairle,” he concluded. “We have done this by managing our resources well and in recommending a balanced budget to you for 2012/13 and with balances at the target level of £3m we leave the new council in as good a financial health as we inherited and as well placed as it can be to address the challenges ahead.”
The full Comhairle is to meet again tonight (Thursday) at 7pm.