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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Council finances

I think I speak for the vast, vast majority of people in the Western Isles when we applaud the Council for the single minded determination in pursuing their support for the Coastguard Station.  Just as we all supported and applauded the efforts of the Council over the Rocket Range.

Everyone in the islands believes that this is one of the key roles of the Council, and one at which we probably all think that has almost (almost!) a limitless budget and where public support and understanding of the role of the Council can best be focussed.

So let me say "Well done" to all concerned, before I highlight the problems going forward.

If anyone was in doubt about the financial problems facing the Council, then they should read the rather understated Finance Dept reports, where the stark truth is laid bare.  The 'strategy' document is a master of obfuscation in very few words (it's probably a trait of accountants).  The presentation to members on the other hand lays the options bare [including the issue of local election next year which will undoubtedly coulour the decision making process for some]

The Council faces massive cuts in Central Government support over the next few years, and the choices are hard but the impact will be deep.

I take no pleasure in pointing out that I suggested preparing for this a year ahead of the first round of cuts being implemented.  That might have stretched the pain a bit, but it certainly won't ease it.  The next three years will see major and fundamental cuts in the Council, and staff, unions, senior officers and Councillors better realise this.

The easy targets, such as Ceolas, will be the first to go as the various funders pull their funding - death by a dozen cuts -whilst compulsory redundancies will be absolutely necessary to streamline the Council. 

Indeed, fundamental reorganisation is essential.  I would believe that it might happen if the reorganisation started by the Chief Executive in 2006 had actually come to any sort of conclusion by now; rather than being brushed under the carpet, half-done (quarter-done?).

There is going to be the loss of some services too, but these could be mitigated of the Council actually tried to find best value solutions, rather than finding the 'most acceptable' solution.  I am aware of two recent decisions where a financially more expensive and less efficient solution has been implemented.  Both are unquestionably due to 'political' decisions, and one undoubtedly benefits a senior individual personally; although the way it was done with official support or purblindness makes it just inside the rules.

All of this is going to have to go, if for no other reason than it is going to become more transparent and more public, but we face major cuts across the board that will need to be properly implemented, if we are to have a living, working, smaller Council at the end of it.

The Political fall-out from the cuts is for another day.


Anonymous said...

Two recent decisions where a financially more expensive and less efficient solution has been implemented.

Do please tell.

Anonymous said...

I tithe to medecins sans frontieres. It's a large proportionate tithe given my small income - but one which I feel is good. I would be interested to know what proporttion of Mr Burr's humunguous salary (6 figures?) goes to charity.