Highlands & Islands

Islands council jobs cut figure 'alarmist'

Pound coins
Image caption The comhairle is considering £24m in savings

A union's forecast that more than 400 jobs could go at Western Isles council was "alarmist", the local authority's leader has said.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will consider savings of £24m on Thursday.

Unison has warned that the level of spending cuts could lead to major redundancies and people leaving the islands to find work elsewhere.

But comhairle leader Angus Campbell said it was too early to commit to levels of reduction in the workforce.

In a response to a survey by BBC Scotland on potential council job cuts, the comhairle said it could not put a figure on anticipated losses over the next few years.

However, in a statement, the authority said: "If that was to come solely from jobs that would equate to roughly 450."

The comhairle said it had asked for expressions of interest in voluntary redundancy from teaching staff and was looking at introducing a similar scheme for other council employees.

'Blanket cut'

Mr Campbell said the authority had a long history of managing the process of making savings, while working closely with its staff.

He added: "We would look to do things through voluntary arrangements and, if we have to, we will look at compulsory.

"But to say 400 will go as a blanket cut is, I think, alarmist at this time."

Unison branch secretary Allie MacLennan said if job losses happened people would leave the isles to seek employment elsewhere.

He said young people who had left previously would also be discouraged from returning to the islands to live and work.

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