Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar’s future financial challenges cannot be understated, according to council leader Angus Campbell.
Mr Campbell (pictured) was responding to a report from the Accounts Commission into Local Government finances which says councils across Scotland face significant challenges in the year ahead.
Cllr Campbell said: “It is to be welcomed that the Accounts Commission recognises that Councils have managed their finances well. They are also right to emphasise that significant challenges lie ahead for Local Authorities.
“The Comhairle has a good track record of managing finances but the financial pressures that are ahead cannot be understated. And this is made more difficult by the annual nature of recent local government settlements.”
He said the Comhairle has already started the process of planning future years including exploring different models of service delivery and whilst this is recognised by Audit Scotland, the Comhairle will need to continually develop its financial planning.
He said: “Planning and financial management are critical and whilst the Comhairle has adopted a strategic approach to the use of reserves throughout its life which have smoothed budget savings and protected, as far as reasonably possible, services, it is clearly the case that reduced resources have an impact on services and can have an impact on jobs.
“The Comhairle has avoided the need for compulsory redundancies in previous years and we will aim to maintain that position.
“The Comhairle recognises the importance of jobs in the local economy, particularly in light of the population projections released earlier this year.
“Indeed we would encourage the Scottish Government to invest in the islands to increase jobs and boost the economy and we will be seeking discussions at an early stage as to how we take an Islands Deal forward utilising part of the additional £800m capital for Scotland announced in the Autumn Statement.
“In relation to the process for next year, the position is that we will be implementing proposals already agreed and, in line with the strategy, using balances to allow time for the new council to set its priorities for future budgets.
Of course we will not know what our settlement from the Scottish Government is until 14th December. I should say that if the settlement is significantly worse than expected, the Comhairle may need to look at bringing forward additional savings in February.”