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The truths they don't want you to read....

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Council cuts - the very latest

I am told by a very knowledgeable source that the actual cuts being planned by the Comhairle are only slightly less than the £25m I forecast, but that they may need to be completed in a shorter timescale than the 4 years I predicted.

All will be clear next week.

However, I have also been told about the plans on how to deal with the cuts, and the proposals on how to bridge the shortfall.

If the suggested resolution (sic) is accurate, then I am appalled at both a professional and political level as it is not so much a cure as a mask to hide the seriousness of the situation and to delay the impact. Not to cure it - and that is a huge and important distinction.

I'mm looking forward with some trepidation to seeing the final plans, and Councillor need to be very wary of avoiding difficult decisions today in favour of a suggestion that makes the long term solution more difficult to achieve and will make the inevitable even more serious when it has to be faced.

However, hovering over the entire process is the elephant in the room - the Budget and the Budget cuts.

There is a certain understandable fear that the UK Government cuts will be so deep as to fundamentally impact upon the cuts that the Scottish Government has to make and pass on to local authorities. If these happen, then all bets are off about the continued existence of the Comhairle as a viable entity.

Update: A phone call reveals that the cuts to be discussed this week are planned to be £4.5m , £5m, £7m and £7m giving a total of £23.5m over 4 years.


Anonymous said...

I think there's a certain inevitability about the incorporation of the Western Isles into one of the other regions. Population falling, roles shrinking and a whole raft of middle and senior management who are, at least partially, duplicating that which is being done in other regions. (I make no comment about councillors - but 31 for a constituency of this size ?)

With heavy central budget cuts coming down on us - that's going to be the only way to make the savings I suspect.

Dr Evadne said...

Years of poor management, nepotism, cronyism, overspending and ineptitude coming home to roost. Watch the cuts being made in areas that provide a vital service whilst the non-jobs carry on as normal. And why oh why are there 31 councillors especially when only two or three of them are allowed to have any influence/say on 'policy'?

Anonymous said...

Dr Evadne you are so right...of 31 councillors there are two or three who seem to think that what they say goes...the voters have to get rid of them next time but what damage will they have done before then. Rural schools is one closing these schools, they are killing off these communities. The local school is a vital part of these areas when they are desperately trying to increase population not decrease it. As an example Tolsta pupils would have to make a 14 mile round trip to Back but would these councillors tell Stornoway parents that they would have to send their kids on a daily 14 mile return to Back...not a chance. Anywhere out of town gets treated with contempt. Of course, cuts have to be made but some issues, such as schools, are not just about the fiscal aspect. The very future of these communities is at stake and once these schools are closed , they are gone forever. Wake up, Councillors, to the damage you are about to do.

Anonymous said...

So rural schools stay as do everyone elses' pet projects. The hard truth is that serious, severe cuts have to be made so where would you suggest that the Comhairle make them? You can bet your bottom dollar that when the Comhairle becomes a branch of Highlands Council, the rural communities are going to become non-existent apart from the retired incomers who can afford to live in them.

Anonymous said...

Take a look at school entrant figures in this week's WHFP. Three with no kids at all, and an average of five a school spread over 35 schools once you take out Stornoway and Laxdale. No council, however good or bad, can make sense of these figures.

Anonymous said...

The trouble is that the Councillors are far too busy protecting their £16k plus pension salaries than making the tough decisions.

If they had bitten the bullet three years ago when they were first elected and started making cuts / reigned in the costs then they may have found themselves ahead of the game.

None of them can claim that they didn't see it coming as it was written on the wall.

Anonymous said...

Let me at them, I could find that much and more and still see no change in services....

Anonymous said...

Get rid of CNES,WI Tourist Board,all too small to be effective + WIHB,total nonsense---they spend too much time talking/travelling to meetings.

Get rid of HIE too,

Anonymous said...

These islands were treated well by previous governments. Very well. Indeed - well - to the point that we've had pretty much what we wanted in the last 15 or 20 years rather than what we needed - so our expectations have become somewhat skewed.

Why ? I have no idea.

People are criticizing the councillors. I don't exempt them from criticism but I would point out to you that their personal frailties have been aided and abetted by senior (in some cases very senior) council officials who have provided them with ways to remain temporarily popular with their constituents.

This council is now a bust. They have no long term idea of what they wish to do anywhere apart from continuing the bowing and scraping of both council officials and actual or potential funds recipients.

Goodness help us.

Anonymous said...

11.16am. Can we just get rid of you?

when I went to P1 in Stornoway there were two classes of 30+ & 1 class of 20+ (approx), total of over 80. Next year, apparently there is Just 33 in P1. A school on the west side had had the role fall from 45 to 32 in just 14 years. Even a P7 pupil could tell you that schools need to close with these numbers, what these communities once had has already gone, we need to move forward.

If we were part of highland council these schools would have gone a long time ago!

Hairy McLairy said...

To anyone who thinks that 'just getting rid of them' is the answer, think again.

Yes - the Council and other extraneous public bodies need to be deeply cut. But without it, there would be 1,500 extra people in the dole queue (no matter who's in charge, we need about 1,000 people to run public functions such as schools, libraries and critical social care). And when half of the 1,500 move off the island, another few schools close. And a few more shops, restaurants, building firms, cleaning companies go bust ..... and their staff move off-island. Get the picture?

The practical solution is to fold all non-NHS public sector bodies into one building (I think we have one in Sandwick Road already) and take away the costly, time-consuming governance and management functions to a very large degree. Then promote the remaining empty offices as cut-price starter premises for small and new businesses. Then use the money saved to drum up realistic inward investment business (no, not you, Arnish) and tourism.

But it won't happen any time this century. A few time-served lackeys who haven't kept their noses clean will get redundancy packages (I believe this is happening already); lots of small new jobs won't get advertised and consequently admin at the White House will get worse; some really surprisingly essential services like cleansing and adult social work will be clumsily cut because they don't cause public outrage like schools do; a few stalwart workers will work themselves into early graves and save the taxpayer a few bob as their pensions die with them; and life will generally get a lot more miserable and grasping at the lower end whilst the folk at the top spend even more time and money justifying themselves.

We're all doomed (puts on convincing 'Dad's Army' voice).

Anonymous said...

I would much rather my children were at a modern well resourced school with proper classes.

Anonymous said...

Hot on the heels of their last spectacular spelling mistake -

"Middle and senior managers’ remits would be examined to see if they can be amalgamated and responsibilities shared amongst reaming bosses."

reaming bosses you say?

The internets tells me that reaming means expanding existing holes ...

Anonymous said...

Lets have a reality check here - why do people think that the council should have any responsibility or an answer for a solution to the economic woes of the islands? Their primary role should be to provide services like schools cleansing, and social services etc. We should not expect the council to be expert at commercial enterprise, so just remember who you are talking about. It is clear that previous councils have been reluctant to grasp the severity of the decline in schools intake and did not take a responsible decision on this matter for at least a decade. The preferred view was to pretend that there was no problem, so the current group of councillors are left with taking the flack. At least they have the balls to start doing something about it, so give them some credit for at least trying. Providing public service by asking for more money is now a thing of the past, quite rightly so. Now, there should be a proper and transparent business case before any public funding is spent. The legacy of secretive profligate politics is what we will all experience soon, so be prepared for more bad news to come. That is what happens when you look at life from an ivory tower, so let us hope that all these lofty towers in our midst begin to fall and that we can again have a level playing field. Then, perhaps there will come a time when people and integrity will be considered more important than egos.

Anonymous said...

10.53 Aren't the last council more or less the new council? So basically they dodged the difficult decisions for one more term so as to keep in power.

I quite agree that they should be out of enterprise and concentrate on services, and they should stop throwing money at useless projects which are of no value other than short term job maintenance. No-one wants to see job losses but throwing money at white-elephants is insanity.