Comhairle defends £100,000 refit

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Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has defended its plan to refurbish the council chamber in Stornoway and other meeting rooms in Harris, Balivanich and Barra, after calls by a group of councillors that the money should instead be used to ‘protect services’.

Last week, Cllr Gordon Murray, leader of the SNP group of councillors, sent an open letter to the Leader of the Comhairle calling for councillors to be a given a chance to debate the plans, and claiming that the works could cost over £100k.

Cllr Murray acknowledged in his letter that there is ‘little doubt that the IT and Communications require to be renewed to aid the function the chamber needs to fulfil’, but concluded: ‘however, the furniture and environment, despite being dated, is not a spending priority.’

Responding to Cllr Murray’s claims, a spokesperson for the Comhairle said: “The Chamber and surrounding member work spaces at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar are obviously in need of refurbishment, particularly in terms of IT and Communications equipment which would be the bulk of the cost.

“The Chamber was built 44 years ago and is now not fit for purpose and needs modernisation, which is long overdue.

“The Comhairle hosts many events in the Chamber and adjacent meeting rooms and work areas and it is only right that there should be an appropriate, modern working environment for members of the public, the Comhairle, Government and other agencies at a local, national and international level.

“This upgrade will make the space fit for purpose, facilitate efficient video and teleconferencing meetings and will serve the council and the community for many years to come, long past the term of this council.”

The Comhairle has already agreed to do this work which will involve an upgrade to the IT and Communications in not only the Chamber and associated meeting rooms in Stornoway but also Harris, Balivanich and Barra.

“Works will commence Spring/Summer 2020.”