Comhairle nan Eilean Siar needs to find savings of £6.6m

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar could be faced with finding savings of £6.6m over the next two years as a result of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thursday, 27th August 2020, 7:00 am
The Comhairle's finances have taken a hit due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The Comhairle's finances have taken a hit due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Following specially arranged meetings of the Comhairle last week, the authority has now brought forward its budget setting process by three months.

And it is launching consultations to get the public’s views on the options the authority has for balancing its budget in time for an outline report and proposals to be considered at its meetings in September and October.

The authority said in a statement that the move was to allow as much time as possible to consider “the difficult decisions which face us”, and the options it has in light of next year’s budget settlement from the Scottish Government, which may not be announced until January or February next year.

In a briefing note on the issue sent to its staff, the authority’s chief executive Malcolm Burr said that the Comhairle’s financial reserves in February stood at £3.2m but that responding to the Covid-19 pandemic was projected to cost the authority £4.1m, with only £1.7m of that cost coming from the Scottish Government, reducing the authority’s balances to £0.8m.

In addition, Mr Burr warned the Integration Joint Board, a joint organisation backed by the Comhairle and NHS Western Isles which is responsible for health and social care services locally, may also face budget problems as a result of the pandemic, putting additional strain on the Comhairle’s reserves.

Comhairle Leader, Cllr Roddie Mackay, said: “Over the past ten years the Comhairle’s approach to financial stringency has been a combination of efficiency savings, service redesign and maximising opportunities. 

“However, the circumstance facing us now are unprecedented although we will continue to work with COSLA, SOLACE, Directors of Finance and other organisations to lobby Government to recognise the extremely difficult situation for councils.

“Covid has been as unsettling to public finances across Scotland and the UK as it has been unwelcome in its effects.

“Our job is to prepare, plan, mitigate and support each other through this crisis and this process.”