The SNP group of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has expressed its disappointment at having its alternative budget rejected by full council.

The group was defeated by 22 votes to 5 at yesterday’s budget-setting meeting, which approved service cuts totalling £686,000 for 2016/17. 

The Comhairle deferred a decision to close the Hillcrest residential care home to 2017/18.

The SNP group had argued against that proposal, asking instead for a report to be compiled in relation to the future of residential and respite care for children.

In another amendment, they recommended that a proposal to discontinue itinerant teacher provision be thrown out. 

The group also called for the Comhairle to purchase its electricity from Hebridean Energy Company, claiming such a move would mean a saving of £390,000 over the next two years.

However, other councillors rejected this amendment, arguing that the company had not yet been set up. 

Cllr Gordon Murray said: “I think we (the SNP group) had a financially competent, credible budget. 

“We were using savings from switching tariffs by using an energy supply company that has found its roots in the council, has been voted on in the council, has been funded by the council, and yet whose existence was denied at yesterday’s meeting. 

“We were told by senior officers that the new Hebridean Energy Company tariff could be available from July this year, projected at a maximum of 10p compared to the 13.5p the council currently pays. 

“That would save 25 per cent of a £1.4 million spend, which would keep Hillcrest open.”

Cllr Murray said the SNP group had consistently supported the retention of itinerant teachers.

“Our music scene is brilliant and we have excelled in sporting achievements,” he said. 

“That is down to this investment and now it has been pulled away.”

Cllr Gordon Murray