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‘It’s a bit like Santa coming’ – Orkney councillors agree one-off funding for 17 projects

Orkney Islands Council's headquarters in Kirkwall. Picture by Sandy McCook
Orkney Islands Council's headquarters in Kirkwall. Picture by Sandy McCook

Projects around Orkney have received a pre-Christmas windfall after councillors agreed to spend £8.24 million in unallocated funds.

The islands council received additional cash after claiming for loss of income funding.

It meant the authority was left with an unallocated £8.24million, free from any restrictions on how to spend it.

Interim executive director of finance Gareth Waterson said: “Sitting on that funding doesn’t do anyone any good and we need to try to get that into the community.”

Where is the money going?

A list of 17 projects was presented to councillors at a special meeting of the policy and resources committee.

This ranges from channelling £300,000 toward helping cultural events hit by the pandemic to putting £1,000,000 towards the Kirkwall town centre regeneration project.

It also includes £300,000 for housing grants, £400,000 to upgrade council computer systems, and £500,000 for new IT equipment for schools.

The council’s play park equipment renewal fund is to receive £500,000 and a similar amount will be used to build a storage barn for road salt at Cursiter Quarry.

Money for library heating, IT in schools and paths network

Other uses for the money include installing a ground source heat pump at Orkney Library, clearing ditches and offlets to deal with surface water on roads, a tourism infrastructure fund, and developing the county’s core path and cycle path network.

Councillors welcomed the spending plans. Dr Stephen Clackson commented: “It’s a bit like Santa coming.”

Councillor Leslie Manson

Councillor Leslie Manson said: “I congratulate [the council officers] for the way they’ve kept their ear to the ground and assessed the range of post-Covid needs that clearly exist in our community.”

A few councillors supported £500,000 being used for islands and rural housing. With building costs higher in the outer islands, councillor Rachael King asked how far this would go.

£1 million for Kirkwall town centre regeneration project

Mr Waterson said the council hopes to work with the islands’ development trusts to build two new houses per trust.

Council leader James Stockan said they will also be looking to work with islands that do not have a trust.

Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan

In addition, councillors agreed that £33,500 should be spent on work to help the Kirkwall Regeneration project get to the planning stage.

Councillor Stockan added: “With the Scottish Government looking at our reserves, it’s important we get the spend made.

“If we end up with more at the end of the year, we could end up with a challenge.”

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