Comhairle nan Eilean Siar consults on proposed cuts and closures

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is consulting on its Draft Recovery Business Plans as it seeks to find significant financial savings over the next two financial years.

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 4:40 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 4:46 pm
The proposals could include changes at the Comhairle's Stornoway offices.

The transfer of council office staff in Balivanich to other locations and the renting out of more than 50 per cent of the its office space at its Sandwick Road base in Stornoway, are amongst a raft of proposals set to be considered as part of community and staff consultations.

The proposals come as the result of what the authority’s chief executive Malcolm Burr described as the “unprecedented financial challenge which is ahead of the Comhairle, and every other council in Scotland”.

On the basis of its current financial projections, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar could have to find savings of more than £6m in the period with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on its finances being highlighted by the authority as one of the major causes of its financial woes.

At a meeting of the Comhairle, councillors backed consultations on proposals outlined in the authorty’s Recovery Business Plan List of Actions which sets out a range of measures to secure financial savings.

The report on the recovery plan stated that all proposals listed would be “subject to consultation and full impact assessments prior to decision by the Comhairle”.

In a letter to staff this week, Mr Burr said that the proposals had been developed on the basis of a “worst-case scenario” with all directors and heads of service asked to set out what a reduction of 10 per cent in every Comhairle budget would look like, and that the consultation paper reflects, by and large, the results of that process.

Among items outlined in the consultation document are proposals to ‘consult on school rationalisation’ for Sgoil nan Loch, Breasclete and Bernera, consultations on school rationalisation for Back, Tong, Laxdale, and the same for Sgoil nan Loch and Pairc school.

Also listed is a proposal for the closure of Sandwick Resource Centre with the relocation of services and staff across schools, hubs and satellite locations, and the relocation of staff and the closure of the St Lennans Centre in Stornoway.

The list of proposals also includes a reduction to the core budget to support key economic sectors including tourism, creative industries, energy, fisheries, aquaculture and heritage, a 10 per cent cut to annual funding agreements with core organisations in the Creative Sector, a review of abattoir provision across the islands, and a proposal for ‘school workforce reduction’.

When asked to clarify the details and status of some of the key proposals outlined above, a spokesperson for the authority said in a statement: “We are about to embark on consultations and it would be inappropriate to discuss these issues before our communities have had an opportunity to see, discuss and contribute.”

The Comhairle confirmed that it is now seeking the views of individuals and organisations on the Draft Recovery Business Plans.

Those who wish to submit comments can do so at Comhairle Consultation

Paper copies of the survey are available on request by calling 01851 600501.

The consultation closes on Saturday, September 26.

Responses to the survey will be taken into account by the Comhairle when it next considers the draft plans on September 30.