Taskforce to tackle financial crisis - councillor puts idea on the table

A new councillor at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has ignited a plan to pull all sectors of the islands together to address the financial crisis facing the Western Isles.

Loch a Tuath councillor Donald Crichton, who was elected in May, suggested the council should establish a Taskforce to campaign for additional funding from the Scottish Government to minimise deep cuts to public services in the islands.

Cllr Crichton put forward the suggestion at last night’s (Thursday) meeting of the full Comhairle and said bringing together the public, private and voluntary sectors in this way along with the islands parliamentary representatives would ‘embolden’ the Comhairle’s efforts.

His proposal gleaned support among councillors but Leader Angus Campbell felt it would be more appropriate to hold a day of action and discuss a way forward with other agencies before establishing such a body.

Following much discussion on the issue, it was agreed that a seminar or meeting would be held in the near future to discuss what should be done.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Crichton said: “Our economic situation is unique out of all the 32 local authorities in Scotland even including Orkney and Shetland who have oil fund reserves to fall back on.  We have an economy dependent on the public sector, a population in decline, high fuel costs, a local government funding formula that places us at a disadvantage.”

He added: “ All the negative economic factors have been with us for years but they are brought more sharply into focus in light of the financial situation we are facing as a Council. We need intervention and a mobilisation of our arguments and resources to put our case to Government from across every sector of our community.  I hope that we can see this happening in some shape or form sooner rather than later.”