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Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Press Release - 9th March 2017

Leader's Address to P&R

Cllr Angus Campbell, Chair of the Comhairle’s Policy and Resources Committee, has outlined some of the achievements of the Committee over the last five years. He was speaking at the final meeting of the Committee before the local Government elections in May.

He said: “The five balanced budgets we have set have seen us allocate over half a billion pounds to deliver Comhairle services with a focus on our elderly population and our young people.

This has not always been easy for us with some £25m of savings to find across the term. However, through good planning and management, along with the strategic use of balances we have found over 85% of this without affecting services. Our FTE employee numbers have gone from 1906 in March 2010 to 1613 in December 2016 – a reduction of 293.

In leaving sufficient balances for a further year I believe we are giving the next Comhairle the best possible opportunity to plan for the further challenges that lie ahead.

Despite our revenue pressures we have delivered a capital programme that we have grown from an initial £42m to over £100m.
During our term we have seen:
The opening of our 7th new school in North Uist
The redevelopment of Ardseileach
The opening of the Lews Castle and Museum
A continued investment in housing amounting to £3m
Over £13m of improvements in our roads and infrastructure including improvements to the Spinal route at Kyles Leverburgh, North Harris and South Uist and works at Ardveenish Harbour
Nearly £2m invested in community capital projects amounting to leverage of £1:£10
A complete refresh of our fitness equipment in our sports centres
Construction of additional landfill facilities at Bennadrove and restoration of Rueval Site; Construction and commissioning of wind turbines at Creed Business Park and incorporation into onsite facilities;
Completion of Harris Care Development project; and
Completion of coast protection schemes in South Uist and Barra: and
Completion of the Hebridean Way.”

Cllr Campbell also highlighted the Committee’s investment in fishing, business start-ups, community buyouts, the Capital Grant Fund, the LEADER Programme and Broadband: “We have made a £750,000 investment in the local fishing fleet under the Comhairle Fisheries Investment Scheme and supported 250 Business start-ups. The Outer Hebrides LEADER 2007–2013 Programme supported 111 projects ranging from new community buildings and shops to events and services that will benefit people of all ranges. We have also supported community buyouts - support helping to deliver 75% of the land mass under community ownership and £2.3m secured from Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund.

Whilst the LEADER 2007-2013 programme allocated £3.26m to projects throughout the Outer Hebrides it also assisted to lever in over £5.5m in additional funding.

Furthermore a successful bid to the Scottish Government for the Rural Broadband Challenge Fund resulted in additional funding of over £263k being secured to assist three communities – North Harris, Tolsta and Dalmore – to introduce broadband infrastructure to the areas.

On LEADER Cllr Campbell said: “Since the programme first started in 1991 to 2013 a total of 771 projects have received LEADER funding throughout the Outer Hebrides, and this LEADER funding together with other match funding have contributed to a total programme value of £25.7m.”

The Outer Hebrides 2014-2020 LEADER and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Local Development Strategy was the first to be approved in Scotland. It was allocated £3.17m LEADER funding, with £528k allocated to the EMFF programme to support the development of projects throughout the Outer Hebrides.

Since opening for applications in March 2016 the Outer Hebrides LEADER 2014-2020 Programme has approved funding to 17 projects resulting in a total commitment of over £1m LEADER funding, 43% of the Outer Hebrides total LEADER budget.
This current LEADER programme not only supports community projects but also assists businesses to develop innovative new sustainable ideas.

Cllr Campbell also referred to Our Islands: Our Future, the campaign to secure more powers for Island areas: “When we first discussed working together with Shetland and Orkney Island Councils towards common aims I certainly hadn't anticipated that in 2017 we would have formal engagement arrangements with both Governments and be looking forward to the imminent introduction of an Islands Bill as well as working towards a Deal for the Islands and consultation on further devolution of the Crown Estate a local levels.

On Renewable Energy Cllr Campbell said: “Taking advantage of our renewable energy resources has continued to be a challenge. We have continued to engage with Government, Regulators and transmission operators to make the case for the Western Isles Radial Connector: engaged with Government to establish a new island-specific technology category of “Remote Island Wind” alongside a differentiated island strike price; and worked closely with and resourced Community Energy Scotland to support community generators from Barra to the Butt to Barra.

The Comhairle has also sought to redress the issue of fuel poverty allied with supporting housing developments. Cllr Campbell said: “We have sought to address the unacceptable levels of fuel poverty in our communities by engaging with Government and also putting in place a multi-agency Community Planning Partnership Fuel Poverty Strategy and Action Plan that takes a holistic three-strand approach that encompasses energy efficiency of buildings, household income levels and the cost of fuel. Over £12m of investment has gone into new homes through the national Home Energy Efficiency Programme. This investment, led by the Comhairle, will have positive impacts on fuel poverty levels and the quality of our housing stock.

We have delivered 150 new affordable homes in partnership with HHP. We have supported this housing programme with grant aid and have contributed land. Our input has been significant. In most cases it has made the difference between a housing development going ahead or not.

We have delivered a new 24 bed shared temporary accommodation facility at The Acres. This has transformed the Homeless service along with the additional properties we have purchased off the open market. Anyone homeless in our community should not now face long periods within unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation. This has been a massive step forward.

Concluding, Cllr Campbell made reference to the Syrian Families Resettlement Programme: “We have resettled six Syrian refugee families under a UK programme. I would like to thank our community for the kindness that they have shown to our new residents.”

. . . . . . .

Nigel Scott
Communications Officer
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Tel: 01851 822622 (Work)
Tel: 07884 236103 (Mobile)