Councillor Donald Crichton has called on the Scottish Government to intervene in the difficult financial and economic situation facing the Western Isles.
Speaking at the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership on Wednesday the Loch a Tuath Councillor said the continual reduction of revenue and capital funding to the local authority was unsustainable for the future and would further erode and shrink the public sector in the islands.
The OHCPP was considering a report on public sector funding which is seeking to develop a strategy to address the reduction in finance to the local authority and other public bodies. Last year Mr Crichton had called for a taskforce to be established to address the economic crisis facing the islands and for high profile lobbying of the Scottish Government from across the public sector in the Western Isles.
Mr Crichton said: “ I welcome this report. It has evolved from a Comhairle decision back in September to agree a strategy for making representations to Government in relation to the financial situation that we are facing as an authority and as a community. This is a financial situation unique from any other local authority given our peripherality, our dependence on the public sector for jobs and the lack of any alternative funding similar to our other island authority colleagues.”
“ The continual reduction of revenue and capital funding to the local authority is unsustainable for the future and will further erode and shrink the public sector in our communities. That should surely be of grave concern to us as councillors, public sector agencies, the Third Sector, the business community and parliamentary representatives. In light of the budget we had to set recently and the more challenging one we have to set in the near future our situation is becoming a matter of urgency.”
“While representations are made with the appropriate government ministers on a regular basis, as this report says, more radical strategies should be considered. That is why I think it is appropriate that the Planning Partnership is the key forum for developing a strategy representing the wider community to put our case. It is time to put on a united front and urge the Scottish and Westminster Governments to intervene. If we are going to have petitions in this community let’s start with petitioning our governments at Holyrood and Westminster for more resources.”
Mr Crichton continued: “ There are a number of issues that need to be addressed and key is the funding formula that puts the Comhairle at a disadvantage when it comes to the allocation of revenue and capital funding. Capital projects should be identified across the public sector and developed for making a case for funding. Further opportunities for developing renewable projects should be identified while the campaign continues for the inter-connector. Across the public sector we need to look at how services are structured and delivered.”
The Partnership agreed at its meeting to assess the financial prospects for the public sector in the Outer Hebrides; and would identify strategies to maximise financial resource for the Outer Hebrides, to mitigate the effects of further decline in public sector funding.