Elected Members have set Orkney Islands Council’s budget for the next financial year.
A meeting of the Full Council decided that £82 million should be spent on running Council services in 2018-2019 and that savings of £1.8 million should be found during the year ahead.
Councillors also agreed:
- That Council Tax charges should rise by 3%, which would increase the Band D annual charge from £1068 to £1100.
- That existing fees and charges for Council services should increase by at least 4% from 1 April. Exceptions would include Orkney Ferries fares, charges for planning applications and building warrants, licensing fees, trade waste collections, and social care charges that are set by legislation.
OIC’s overall funding from the Scottish Government to run council services over the year ahead amounts to £69 million. In addition, following a long campaign by the Council for fair funding for Orkney’s internal ferry service, an additional £5.5 million has been allocated by the Government. This will mean that Orkney Ferries services are fully funded over the year ahead.
Although the award of fair funding is a welcome development, savings of £1.8 million are needed to close the gap between the funding OIC receives to run other Council services - and the actual cost of providing those services across the county. It amounts to 3% of the revenue support grant the Council receives from the Scottish Government to run services other than ferries.
A challenging budget setting process has taken place over many months, with a great deal of thought and effort devoted to finding ways to lessen the impact on the local community, staff and the organisation itself.
Council Leader James Stockan said the need for cuts to services valued by people in Orkney had meant difficult decisions for Elected Members.
But it was crucial that the Council was put on a sound financial footing, with further reductions in Government funding and an ever-growing demand for many essential Council services expected over the years ahead.
The measures agreed today will result in a reduction of the Council’s workforce by the equivalent of 14.2 full time equivalent posts.
Of these, 5.5 FTE posts are currently vacant. For the remaining posts, the intention is to avoid compulsory redundancies if possible and look instead at alternatives such as redeployment, voluntary redundancy and retirement.
Councillors also agreed that a contribution of up to £4.7 million should come from the Strategic Reserve Fund to support services during the year ahead. This is seen as a sustainable draw, which will protect the reserves as funding source for projects of importance to Orkney for many years to come.
Today’s decision that Council Tax bills in Orkney should increase by 3% from April 1 will bring in an additional £221,000 in revenue for OIC.
Households with only one adult living in the property will continue to receive a Council Tax discount of 25%.