With some local community organisations only hours away from making decisions on redundancies, there came a surprise announcement at 1717 this evening (Monday 16 November) from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
CnES announced the launch of an Emergency Fund to support local charitable and community organisations facing financial difficulties following the subsea electricity cable failure between Skye and Harris.
The cable fault has had a severe impact on a number of local organisations that were set to receive funding from local community generators who are no longer able to produce power or earn revenue.
The Comhairle says it has worked with electricity network provider SSEN to put in place a package of support funding that will be targeted at community groups and charities who provide support services to the most vulnerable in the community.
SSEN’s contribution of £300,000 has been established through the repurposing of £150,000 of its existing community resilience funds, which has then been matched by the company as a goodwill gesture.
The Comhairle will contribute up to £175,000 to the Fund.
Funding will be administered by the Comhairle to provide support directly to impacted charitable and community organisations.
It is anticipated that the fund will be for a one-year period and it is hoped will be operational by the middle of this week. In addition to SSEN funding, the Comhairle is seeking to divert some of its own resources to the fund and are exploring contributions from other parties. Before the weekend, it was suggested that Highlands and Islands Enterprise would also back the fund but this is not mentioned in tonight's announcement.
The Comhairle will be working with affected community bodies to ensure the funding is allocated quickly and efficiently directly to the affected organisations.
Comhairle Leader, Councillor Roddie Mackay said: “The loss of income to organisations which provide critical support services to some of the most vulnerable and most in need within our community has been of significant concern.
"I am pleased that the Comhairle has been able to pull together a package with SSEN to support impacted charitable bodies and, more importantly, the people they support. We are actively engaging with the community organisations to confirm the groups that have been affected, and will be putting in place a simple process to ensure the monies can be deployed rapidly to the bodies most in need.”
Mark Rough, Director of Customer Operations, SSEN Distribution said,“We welcome the opportunity to contribute to this fund which will address the immediate financial need of community groups and charities and allow them to continue with their vital work.
"Since the cable fault in October, we have worked closely with community generators to understand their impacts and insurance provision, which in many cases is insufficient to meet requirements. This support will continue alongside exploration of smart solutions that may allow for greater output until a new subsea cable is connected.
"We’d like to thank the Comhairle for their efforts to bring together this collaborative funding solution.”