Cllr Angus Campbell (pictured) Chair of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’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 £25 million 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 per cent of this without affecting services.
“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 £42 million to over £100 million.
During our term we have seen the opening of our seventh new school on North Uist, redevelopment of Ardseileach, the opening of the Lews Castle and Museum, a continued investment in housing amounting to £3 million, more than £13 million of improvements in our roads and infrastructure including
Cllr Campbell also highlighted the committee’s investment in fishing, business start-ups, community buyouts, the Capital Grant Fund, the LEADER Programme and Broadband.
He continued: “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, helping to bring 75 per cent of the islands’ land mass under community ownership, and £2.3 million 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 £25.7 million.”
“The Outer Hebrides 2014-2020 LEADER and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Local Development Strategy was the first to be approved in Scotland.
“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 per cent 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:
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
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar 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
“We have delivered 150 new affordable homes in partnership with HHP. We have supported this housing programme with grant aid and have contributed land.
“We have delivered a new 24 bed shared temporary accommodation facility at The Acres.
Concluding, Cllr Campbell made reference to the Syrian Families Resettlement Programme: “We have resettled six Syrian refugee families under a UK programme.