The prospect of further significant cuts to local authority budgets is causing great concern for the UNISON Western Isles Local Government Branch.
In a statement released this morning (Wednesday 26th) the Branch calls upon Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and the Scottish Government "to explain to our communities why the Western Isles – which has one of the most fragile local economies in the country – is being forced to endure the highest level of budget cuts in Scotland.
"The impact of disproportionate cuts to local government funding by the Scottish Government means that councils are suffering more than other public service providers. UNISON’s view is that this has been a conscious choice by the Scottish Government, which cannot be blamed entirely on the Conservative Government’s ongoing austerity agenda."
Flora Somerville, UNISON Area Organiser, said:“Cuts of the magnitude proposed are intolerable, unacceptable and will impact greatly upon us all, but particularly on the most vulnerable in our communities.
“To our members and the wider community ‘service redesign’ is simply another term for cuts to local services. The cuts which have gone before have seen council services slashed and immense pressure put on the Comhairle’s employees, who are trying to do more with less.”
The Comhairle has shed around 500 staff posts since 2010 and the prospect of further job losses will have huge consequences on the ongoing economic viability of the Western Isles.
The islands are struggling already from the effects of an ageing population and outward migration. Further cuts to council spending locally will only exacerbate these challenges, the Branch statement says
Local government services are the bedrock of our communities, providing services to all from the cradle to the grave - and every pound spent by local government supports local businesses.
The council services currently being ‘redesigned’ – Education, Health & Social Care, local Transport, Environmental Services, and Economic Development - contribute positively to our day-to-day lives and we all rely heavily on the Comhairle to deliver these.