Community Services Cuts ‘Will Be Based On Evidence Not Personal Dislikes’
The Chairman of Scilly’s Council says any proposed cuts to public services will be based on “evidence and need, not on personal likes and dislikes.”
Cllr Amanda Martin made the statement at last week’s Community Services meeting, where Council Vice Chairman, Steve Sims, told members he was “very keen on the library” but “not very keen on Lifelong Learning.”
Steve had asked for the budgets for the two services to be separated, so councillors could see how much each one cost.
But Cllr Sims’ outburst led to a stiff rebuke from Senior Manager for Community Services, Aisling Hick.
Aisling said Sims was, “talking about people studying there and working there.”
She said his comment, “doesn’t help any kind of sensible conversation and doesn’t help me do my job.”
Councillors were told that the Community Services budget was expected to overspend significantly this year.
A large proportion of the extra cost was the £280,000 more in funding provided to keep Park House running, but areas of sport and leisure were also in the red.
The library and Lifelong Learning will overspend by £113,000 while Healthy Living, which covers the sports hall and Normandy pool facilities, will cost £78,000 more than expected.
Finance officers say that’s due to a reduction in the amount paid by the school for use of the pool and a contribution from Adult Social Care that “failed to materialize.”
However, the figures were helped by savings on staff costs in housing, following the departure partway through the year of the former housing officer Ian Hamilton. That post hasn’t been replaced.
Council Chief Executive Theo Leijser told councillors at the start of the financial year that he had set a “balanced budget” for the authority after years of spending more on services than they received in grants and income.
But Aisling Hick admitted at the meeting that “unrealistic income levels” had been set for many of the services in her department.
At the meeting, councillors approved above inflation increases of up to 68% to fees and charges at the pool and sports hall next year.
However, senior officer for health and wellbeing, Joel Williams, said this will mainly apply to the cost of single sessions, and islanders who sign up to new ‘unlimited use’ packages will make significant savings over the current charges.
There could also be sales of refreshments and merchandise to raise income, as well as more targeted activities aimed at visitors.