Orkney Islands Council is due to receive a funding package of £67.7 million from the Scottish Government for the next financial year.
The “settlement” for local government in Scotland was announced today by the cabinet secretary for finance, John Swinney.
The funding for the OIC is £291,000 more than had been anticipated. However, £222,000 of this will help cover the additional cost of extra nursery and pre-school provision. The Scottish Government is introducing legislation which will increase the entitlement for three and four year old children from 475 to 600 hours each year.
Councillors have been involved in detailed discussions with the OIC’s senior management team as part of the budget-setting process. The budget for 2014-15 will be set at a meeting of the full council in February.
Chief Executive Alistair Buchan said: “The financial climate remains extremely challenging. But our budget process is rigorous and for months now we have been planning ahead to ensure the Council is well prepared for the year before us.
“Providing we continue to stay on top of our budget – and we continue to plan and manage effectively – I am confident that Orkney will come through this recession strongly.”
The ongoing archaeological excavations at the Links of Noltland, in Westray, have been nominated for the prestigious “Best Rescue Dig” award in the annual Current Archaeology awards.
The Links of Noltland, home to the “Westray Wife” figurine, is the only Scottish candidate this year.
The site is at severe risk from erosion and recent work, funded by Historic Scotland, has made it possible to recover a wealth of new information about life in the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.
For more information about the Links of Noltland, and to vote for the site, click here.
A proposal to make changes to the use and look of a listed building in Kirkwall town centre has been given the go ahead.
Earlier this month, a planning application for the work, which includes some alteration to the “historic fabric” of Custom House, in Albert Street, was submitted to the Orkney Islands Council and approved.
Today, the OIC planning committee heard a report relating to the application for listed building consent, which councillors also approved.
Also at today’s meeting, permission was granted for the creation of a new dental clinic in Kirkwall’s Broad Street.
A current vacant workshop at 11 Broad Street is to be altered to accommodate the new practice.
Councillors also gave the thumbs up to retain a lorry park at Rothiesholm in Stromness and approved an application to convert and extend a domestic outbuilding adjacent to Ness House, on Pier Road, Longhope.
Orkney’s head of operations at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has been appointed as the agency’s new area manager for the islands, and is taking up the role in the new year.
Graeme Harrison, who lives in Kirkwall, first experienced Orkney life in 1984 when he came to the islands while working for the Royal Bank of Scotland.
He has been with HIE since 1992 and said he is delighted to be taking on the top job from Ken Grant, who is moving into a specialised Oil and Gas role within the agency.
Alex Paterson, HIE chief executive, said: “Orkney is one of our most diverse and successful local economies in the Highlands and Islands, notable for longstanding achievements in culture, creative industries, tourism and food and drink, and more recently for powering ahead as a true world leader in marine energy.
“In Graeme, we have appointed an area manager who fully understands the entire range of opportunities and challenges currently facing the islands, and is committed to helping build a positive future for Orkney.
“He and his team are already doing a great job, and will play a central role in moving economic and community growth in Orkney to the next level.”
The Scottish Parliament yesterday debated issues relating to the upcoming EU Fisheries Council, where decisions will be taken regarding fishing opportunities for much of Scotland’s fleet next year.
Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur took the opportunity to raise with the Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead the need to avoid any further reduction in the amount of time the fleet, including boats from Orkney, are able to spend at sea.
Commenting after the debate, Mr McArthur said: “Recent years have seen an improvement in a number of the key stocks for our fishing fleet. In large part this is thanks to the efforts of our fishermen in avoiding areas with high levels of juvenile cod and the use of more selective gear.
“At the same time, however, the European Commission has systematically reduced the days our fishermen have to catch their quotas. This appears to bear less and less relation to the actual state of the stocks.
“The plea from the industry is that the Scottish Government must resist any further reduction in effort at this year’s December Council. In response to my direct question, it was reassuring to hear the Minister agree that he could not sign up to a deal which included a cut in days.”
The Dounby Butcher is one of the four Scottish finalists in the butcher section of the 2013 Countryside Alliance Awards.
The awards, dubbed the Rural Oscars, celebrate Scotland’s rural businesses and communities.
The finalists in each category will be invited to the final at the Scottish Parliament in March 2014 and each category winner will go on to represent Scotland at the British finals at Westminster in April.
Councillors have backed a major change in ballast water regulations for Scapa Flow.
The long running, and contentious, issue of changes in ballast water regulations was the subject of a debate in the council chamber today, at a General Meeting of the OIC.
Under the previous policy tankers must deballast outside the Flow, but the OIC has been looking at changing these regulations for almost five years, spending almost £500,000 in the process.
Following discussions and a vote today, councillors supported the adoption of a new policy, which will allow previously exchanged ballast water to be released into Scapa Flow.
In addition, ships with onboard ballast water treatment plants will have to not only exchange the water before entering Scapa, but will also have to treat it before it is released.
Meeting today, councillors ratified the decision which came forward from the policy and resources committee last month.
The voting for the best Kirkwall BID peedie Christmas Tree ends on Thursday at 5pm.
Town centre businesses were each given a potted Christmas Tree to decorate and display outside their premises, with the public invited to vote for their favourite.
Voting sheets can be downloaded from the OIC website or are available from local businesses.
The winner of the best dressed tree and prize draw winners will be announced on the Kirkwall BID facebook page on Saturday.
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