Highlands & Islands

Islands council staff asked to work less hours

Office worker
Image caption Some staff will be asked to work less hours and others to take early retirement

Volunteers will be sought from among staff at Western Isles Council to work fewer hours to help the authority save millions of pounds.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar said it would also offer early retirement to some employees over the summer.

Half of what the comhairle spends each year goes on its workforce.

The authority faces a funding gap of £5.5m in 2011-12. It said £2m would be sought through efficiency savings and £3.5m through service cuts.

A series of public meetings will be held by the comhairle in September to discuss the challenges the authority faces.

In a statement, the comhairle said: "Significant savings have already been achieved through a number of early retirements from within the teaching profession and it is proposed this opportunity be offered to other staff over the summer period.

"Staff will also be offered the opportunity to reduce their hours voluntarily."

On Monday, a union's forecast that more than 400 jobs could go at the comhairle was described as "alarmist" by the local authority's leader.

Unison has warned that the level of spending cuts in the next few years 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.

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