The Leader of Orkney Islands Council has expressed his concern that the Scottish Government is providing reduced funding for the county’s internal ferry service for the year ahead.
The £5.3 million announced by the Government is £200,000 less than the ferries funding awarded for the current financial year – and £1.5 million less than the £6.8 million the Council requested for 2019-2020.
Councillor James Stockan said: “This is a considerable disappointment for us and leaves the Council in a very difficult position.
“The amount we requested would have covered the full running costs of the inter-island ferry service over the next 12 months, taking into account factors such as inflation and the ever-increasing burden of operating an ageing fleet of vessels.
“We were left with little option but to increase Orkney Ferries’ fares by 3% for the year ahead. This will help offset the reduction in Government funding. But it was a decision taken with a heavy heart, because we are all too aware that our fares are among the highest in Scotland and that this will be a burden for already vulnerable communities.
“We will continue to fight for fair and just funding for our lifeline inter-island ferry service.”
The increase to ferry fares was agreed at a meeting of the Full Council which set the Council’s budget for 2019-2020.
Elected Members decided that £83.7 million should be spent on running Council services over the next 12 months.
A savings target of £350,000 for the next financial year was also agreed. This is considerably less than the average savings of £1.6 million made each year by the Council between 2011 and 2019. The target for 2019-2020 can be achieved without the need to reduce the Council’s workforce.
In setting the budget, Members agreed to draw down £6.1 million from the Council’s reserves. This is considerably higher than the usual contribution and would be unsustainable if it was to continue year after year.
It was also agreed that:
The decision that Council Tax bills in Orkney should increase by 4.79% from April 1 will bring in an additional £415,800 in revenue for OIC. An increase in the number of Band D properties will result in an additional income of £142,200, with a surcharge on empty properties expected to raise £67,700 over the year ahead.
The following Council Tax charges will apply in Orkney for the year ahead:
|Band||Council Tax 2019 to 2020||Council Tax 2018 to 2019|
Households with only one adult living in the property will continue to receive a discount of 25% on the charges detailed above.