A series of community conversations will be held later this year on Orkney Islands Council’s current and future spending plans.
Public meetings will take place across the county, starting in June, with Councillors and senior officials on hand to discuss OIC’s approach to difficult financial circumstances.
OIC Leader James Stockan said: “We want to ensure people throughout Orkney are as well informed as possible about the financial situation facing the Council.
“Funding services is becoming more and more challenging for us as the years go by. We want to talk to communities about how they can help us with this.”
In advance of this, the Council is publishing details of cuts to services that will come into effect during the year ahead.
“Difficult decisions had to be made when we set the budget for the current year, as can clearly be seen when you see the cuts listed together as they are today,” Councillor Stockan said.
“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.
“This situation is likely to continue over future years as well and unless we find new ways of doing things, further cuts to services will be needed. We want to discuss this with communities across Orkney.
“We also want to talk about the proactive steps we are taking to find new sources of income from the Council, like investing in renewables. That has the potential to reduce the need for cuts.
“I firmly believe that communities across Orkney have their own role to play in this. We’re keen to discuss how we can take forward our Empowering Communities project. We want to offer people and groups the opportunity to manage and provide local services within their communities, helping us make budget savings and increasing opportunities for local employment.”
Budget savings of almost £11 million have had to be found over the last six years. These were cuts whose impact were assessed as ‘low’ or ‘medium’ risk. Further savings were needed for the year ahead and, for the first time, Councillors had to agree cuts assessed as ‘high risk’ as well. The cut to the budget for learning support in schools is an example of this.
Councillor Stockan added: “Fortunately, there was no need to consider options this year for ‘very high risk’ savings – such as a cut to local ferry services, merging schools or raising the qualifying criteria for adult care services.
“Looking forward, we wish to avoid decisions of that kind if at all possible. But all the signs are that our Government funding – our main source of income – will reduce further in future.
“This means we need to plan ahead – and we want to give people the chance to discuss the best way forward with us.”
Community conversations will be held throughout Orkney. Details of the public meetings will be published shortly.
OIC Chief Executive Alistair Buchan said: “The cuts agreed for 2018-19 amount to a £1.75 million reduction in our spending over the year ahead. It is important to point out that over £1 million of the savings will be made ‘in house’ – these will affect the organisation, but not the services we provide for the public at large.
“The savings listed today are those that will have an impact on people, groups and other organisations in Orkney.
“The challenging financial circumstances we’ve all been living through look set to continue over the years ahead. It is important that the people we serve have the opportunity to provide feedback on savings already made and those that might be required in future – as well as the measures we are taking to boost the Council’s income. I look forward to hearing views and ideas from all parts of our local community.”
In all, savings of £1.75 million were agreed for the year ahead at the budget setting meetings in February.
Of these, £1.04 million will be saved ‘in house’. These will be achieved through a range of efficiency measures and through reductions in staffing.
Savings of £503,000 will be made to services that directly affect the public – these are listed below.
Increases in charging (also outlined below) are designed to raise £209,000 in additional income.
A £40 grant will no longer be available to people living in Orkney and in receipt of certain benefits.
A number of options will be considered, including the possibility of a move to an alternate fortnightly collection in rural areas. It would mean a two-week gap between collections of general refuse and collections of recyclable items. We will consult with the public before making any change to the frequency of our waste collections.
We will also be reviewing the role of our recycling centres/collections points. We want to look at how well they are used, and if there are ways to encourage people to take more recyclable items to them, to reduce the amount of waste picked up in kerbside collections. We will also explore ways for more community involvement at these facilities.
In addition, the qualification criteria for assisted collections (generally for less able customers) will be considered. Existing criteria for assisted collections may need to be changed, with a reduced level of support available.
There will be a reduction in some of the routine maintenance of Orkney’s roads. For example, resurfacing is likely to take place less often, with repairs only carried out when needed.
There will be less maintenance at our burial grounds. We will also look at the possibility more community involvement in looking after burial grounds.
These can attract significant additional funding for our local economy. They support a wide range of local business start-ups and the development of sectors within the local economy. Cutting this budget will mean fewer opportunities to do this.
Scottish Government concessionary travel schemes do not cover Dial-a-Bus services in Orkney and for many years the Council has filled this gap. Eligible elderly and disabled passengers previously received one free return journey a week on Dial-a-Bus. This has been reduced to 12 free return trips per year, making the scheme consistent with that provided to eligible isles residents travelling on Orkney Ferries (or by air from North Ronaldsay and Papa Westray). The Dial-a-Bus Service will still be supported this year by Council funding and available on a pay as you go basis in addition to the 12 free return trips.
There will be less Council funding towards maintenance at the two sites.
There will be a reduction in the level of additional support for learning provided in schools.
There will be a reduction in funding for the transport provided for children or young people receiving additional support for learning.
The budget for the educational psychology service is being reduced. It will mean less support can be provided for children, young people and families.
Overseas students will no longer be employed on a yearly basis as modern language assistants in schools.
There will be a reduction in the community learning and development services available to communities, adult learners and youth clubs.
Options will be looked at to make this saving.
This will result in a 20% reduction in grass cutting, weeding and other maintenance of sports pitches and public spaces. It will mean that several areas within our towns will now longer be cut as frequently as they have been.
A play scheme for children with special needs will no longer be provided during the summer holidays.
There will be a 2.5% reduction in funding from Orkney Health and Care for lunch clubs and a number of third sector organisations.
Grants from OIC’s housing service are being reduced by 10% to a number of third sector organisations whose work helps prevent or alleviate homelessness.
The budget simulator exercise carried out in 2016 demonstrated a willingness among the public for an increase in charges for Council services, if this helped reduce the need for cuts to frontline services. Charges for many services are increasing by at least 4% during the current year and some new changes will be introduced.
Car parking charges will be raised. Charges will be introduced in some free car parking areas, along with a fee for charging electric cars.
It is proposed that the attendance fee at youth clubs will go up from £1 to £2.
Rents for Council garages are going up by 10% over and above the standard annual increase.
Unlike other local authorities, the Council has previously made no charge for telecare services. We will carry out a consultation on the possibility of introducing a weekly charge of £3.20.
We are increasing charges to cover the cost of the staff, supplies and services involved in providing frozen meals.
Charges will increase from £1.25 to £2.19 for a starter or dessert, from £3 to £5.63 for a main course, from £4.25 to £7.82 for a two-course meal, and from £5.50 to £10.01 for a three-course meal.
Unlike other local authorities, the Council has previously made no charge for people attending day care centres. We will carry out a consultation on the possibility of introducing a charge of £5 per day.