Orkney Islands Council delivers excellent services but must focus on the future

30 January 2024
Report cover

Orkney Islands Council delivers high quality services, valued by local communities. Now the council must shift its focus to the future, ensuring services remain financially sustainable.

In a new report, the Accounts Commission says that Orkney Islands Council faces particular challenges in delivering and maintaining services to its island communities. This includes relatively high costs and difficulty recruiting and retaining staff. But the council also has significant opportunities, which it must use to its advantage. These include abundant natural resources as well as very positive relationships with its communities.

The council has a clear strategic direction and priorities, with regular reporting on its performance. But the Commission is concerned there is a significant gap between the council’s transformation plans and ambitions, and its ability to deliver on them. It faces a significant funding gap of £27 million between now and 2028. There must be greater urgency in its financial planning, management of capital projects and approach to tackling climate change.

Ronnie Hinds, Chair of the Accounts Commission, said:

Orkney Islands Council benefits from its rich natural resources and the legacy of its significant Strategic Reserve Fund, with money available to benefit the Orkney Islands and its local people. But facing a significant gap between the costs of its services and its annual funding, the council urgently needs to improve the delivery of its plans for transformation, halting the unplanned depletion of its reserves.

We need to see a robust plan delivered this year on how reserves will be used, to achieve lasting changes for local communities and future generations. A vital part of this will be frank discussion and engagement with island communities.