Comhairle set their budget

THE Comhairle have set their budget for the coming year agreeing over £5million of savings.

Council tax levels will be frozen for another year with the retention of the band D tax at the 2007/08 rate of £1,024.

Despite the cuts to all departments and the loss of around 60 staff through a voluntary redundancy scheme, the authority has secured the future of the Barra-Benbecula air link and agreed to spend £5millon on the roads and £2million on properties.

Speaking at the Budget setting meeting of the full Comhairle this afternoon, Leader Angus Campbell said: “Today’s budget, the fourth of our term in office, has been the most challenging that we have had to address during my time with the Comhairle.”

He noted that they were grateful to the public for their part in the consultation meetings and had listened to the feedback.

“What I have found difficult is to be discussing budget cuts when we still have areas that we ourselves recognise can improve: waste; energy; trading operations; consultants; and the use of overtime are all topics that have been raised which we will need to address in the coming year.”

He added that they as an authority should be satisfied that, unlike other Scottish councils, they had not had to go down the road of compulsory redundancies.

With the official opening of the North Ford Causeway, Lochmaddy Waiting Room and Kallin Harbour and Ice Plant projects all taking place on Monday, Mr Campbell said the authority was making real progress with their coastal defence programme and delivery of road improvements.

Of the schools project, he remarked: “I know that there has been a lot of criticism about the appointment of a mainland contractor but we must remember that we were governed both by the Scottish Government offer of grant and procurement legislation. Nonetheless the spend with local contractors has been around £3million to date and there is potential for them to win some of the 42 work packages that FMP will be putting out over the remainder of the contract. I was particularly encouraged to hear that this week over 100 people and 28 companies have attended FES’s recruitment events which also identify opportunities for local companies.

Looking to the future, Mr Campbell said that the 2012-15 looked just as uncertain as it did a year ago and called on whoever is in power in Scotland after the May elections to bring back the benefit of the three year settlement.

He concluded: “Whilst the prospect of closing a similar budget gap next year is potentially daunting I am confident that the budget I am recommending to you today will leave us as well placed as any council in Scotland to address it.”