The comhairle has voted through a series of budget cuts and savings to combat a £6.3
Council tax will increase by 3% for the second year running, meaning Band D properties
will pay £1,086.36.
Councillors agreed to make 1% cuts across all departments to save nearly £700,000.
Removing the 10% discount on second homes will bring in another £52,000.
Some £59,000 is set to be saved from street cleansing, refuse collections and recycling
Funding for arts development projects and tourism promotion will be reduced.
But even these measures plus savings on loan fees as well as last minute extra funding
of £1.2 million would still leave the authority short of £3.35 million.
Councillor Charlie Nicolson attempted to use the additional cash to refurbish the
Stornoway Primary but his motion was narrowly defeated by 15 votes to 14.
Mr Nicolson highlighted the “challenges” over the state of the biggest primary school
in the Western Isles, saying improvements were required in the playing grounds, accommodation,
changing facilities and gym.
He added the council promised looking at improving the school back in 2011 when it
closed Sandwickhill School and transferred pupils to Stornoway.
“That has not happened,“ he pointed out.
Education chairman Angus McCormack believed it was unfair to “single out” just one
school with other across the islands also needing investment.
Council leader Roddie Mackay urged his colleagues to retain the £1.2 million to “cushion
the blows” yet to come.
Cllr Crichton said the council will have no reserves to fall back on in three years
thus that funding should not be spent now.
SNP councillors also sought to plough the additional money into the Stornoway Primary
amongst a package of other measures.
They advocated stopping cuts to Lochmaddy and Barra abattoirs as well as awarding
£500,000 to help retain dental services in Uist communities.
They also proposed a £193,000 fund for one-off small scale projects in rural communities.
The fund would have £60,000 allocated to rural Lewis, £50,000 for Uist and Benbecula,
the same amount for Barra while £35,000 would be set aside for Harris. Awards would
be made in consultation with community councils and local groups.
SNP group leader Gordon Murray urged councillors to back his motion “if you want
to make a different to the Stornoway Primary, Uist community and community empowerment.”
But he lost the vote 22 - 6.
Council leader Roddie Mackay said: “We are fortunate that the extra money from the
government means that we have some leeway this year but we cannot afford to relax
or we will be faced with a much harder budget in 12 months’ time.”
The council also agreed to launch a long term restructuring plan seeking a 25% reduction
in service costs over the next four years.
He pledged “extensive consultation” with communities after a priority list is drawn
“Rather than continuing to salami slice services we want to look at different ways
of delivering them to try and secure as many of the same outcomes within the constraints
of the resources available.
Barra councillor Donald Manford has clocked up the record for the longest distance
vote. Mr Manford participated in the budget meeting via video link from the other
side of the world, logging on at 2am.