Orkney Islands Council will be going out into the islands communities in June in an attempt to engage with the public over proposed cuts and budget spending.
The council has taken a lot of flak over recent weeks after they announced cuts to many services despite the rise in council tax, additional funding from the Scottish Government and that a 5 people delegation would be going on a trip to Norway.
Since the full council voted on the budget for the year ahead there has been considerable public outcry with cuts ahead to services for children and the most vulnerable. Orkney’s Budget Agreed OIC then reversed one of the decisions temporarily. Partial Victory to Prevent Cuts for Additional Needs Staff
There has been criticism that the council had not been communicating well with the community on the ‘savings’ being made and the constraints on the budget. This is not surprising when most councillors hold no surgeries with constituents, don’t send out newsletters and only a few go on social media pages to inform the public about what they are doing. It has been left to officials via the media and press releases to communicate with the people of Orkney.
The meetings will be seeking ideas on how the Council might save money or generate income.
For people in the Isles the Development and Infrastructure Committee meetings on tour and this summer’s Community Council conference will be used.
James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Islands Council, said:
“The publication of details of cuts to services for this financial year triggered significant public debate, so we know that people are passionate about the services that we provide and have a genuine desire to see these services continue where possible.
“It is never easy to make cuts to services that are valued by people. But we have to live within our means and, with our own funding from Government reducing year on year, savings needed to be found.
“I would stress that this is about seeking alternatives to cuts. We are actively considering new sources of income for the Council by, for instance, investing in renewables.
“The stark reality is that continuing to fund services under our current model is becoming more and more challenging for us as the years go by. I firmly believe that communities across Orkney have their own role to play and must step forward to engage with us on how we develop our service provision for the future.”
The questions to be posed at the events are:
- Is there anything the Council is doing now that you think we don’t need to do or are providing in an ‘over and above’ fashion and could reduce?
- Are there any services which you think could be provided by your community for less cost?
- If you were to provide some local services, how would this be organised i.e. where from and who by. i.e. by parish, from a community hall or through a community hub – for example Dounby providing a centre for the West Mainland?
- Do you think there is a greater need for Community Councils or Development Trusts to be allocated funding from the Council to provide services?
- Should the Council use more of its reserve funds and what for? Is it providing every day services, providing more of the services that make Orkney what it is, helping our economy grow and creating jobs or investing in projects that will make money for us?
- Do you have any other ideas for us to make money, to charge for things or to save money?
The information gathered at the events will feed into the budget-setting process when it begins in the Autumn.
The diary of meetings is as follows:
- West Mainland – Monday 4 June – 19.00 to 21.00 – Milestone Church, Dounby
- Hope – 5 June – 1900 to 21.00- The Hope School
- Kirkwall – Monday 11 June – 19.00 to 21.00 – King Street Halls, Kirkwall
- East Mainland – Tuesday 12 June – 19.00 to 21.00 – Tankerness Hall
- Stromness – Monday 18 June – 19.00 to 21.00 – Stromness Town Hall
A meeting is also scheduled for St Margaret’s Hope. The date of this is yet to be confirmed, but is likely to be 5 June.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame