20th February 2013
SIC sets 'robust and realistic' budget for 2013/14
Shetland Islands Council has today discussed and approved its spending plans for the coming financial year. In 2013/14 the Council will make savings of £12.458 million, around £1.25 million more than anticipated, and, after 2 years, putting it almost 70% of the way towards its five year target.
Last September, members adopted a Medium Term Financial Plan, recognising the critical need for the Council to get its spending back to sustainable levels. This key document will be updated every year, and set the Council's financial priorities up to 2017. The aim by then is to bring the Council back to a situation where it is living within its means.
The key tasks over the coming years are to preserve externally-invested funds at £125 million - limiting the amount taken from them each year to balance the books - and bring spending on services and capital projects back to a sustainable level.
Another priority for members is to make sure that key areas - Children's Services, Community Care and Infrastructure - are left with a larger percentage of available resources than before. This can be done by cutting down on things like spending on major capital projects, and placing less emphasis on other services for the immediate future.
This year's budget planning has involved more than six months of work, with budgets being built up from scratch rather than being cut from the top down. That intensive work gave councillors the chance to take a 'root and branch' view of their spending.
Leader Gary Robinson: "We still have many challenges ahead but I see this as a robust and realistic budget which sets us back on the path to long-term sustainability. There will be changes in how we serve our community but there are many positives to come out of today's decision. For the sixth year in a row, the Council Tax will be frozen, and will be the fourth lowest in the country. And perhaps most importantly, the amount of money we rely on from reserves to 'balance the books' is beginning to come down.
"There is still a lot of detail to be worked out in many areas, such as future charging for some care services - but we're committed to discussions with the community on all changes. Our services are still the best-funded in Scotland; our task is to maintain that position as much as possible, while making this Council sustainable."
Convener Malcolm Bell says this has been a tough process for staff and councillors alike, but he pays tribute to the commitment they've shown in addressing such an important task: "None of us have been under any illusion that this year's budget in particular would involve some hard decisions. While Shetland as a whole is riding out the recession relatively well, the Council has had to face the very sobering task of bringing its spending under control, bringing its aspirations in line with its resources. This budget goes a very long way to doing that, and I'm confident that if we can maintain this progress the Council will be a much more efficient, effective and productive organisation in the years ahead. This process was never going to be easy, but I remain convinced our best days are still ahead. I look forward to the day when not only do we deliver outstanding services, but we do so within budget."
The SIC’s Budget Book for 2013/14 can be found at:
The Council’s Medium Term Financial Plan can be found at: