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Outsiders win the day

The chairman of Shetland's education committee has lost his fight to prevent outside consultants recommend savings in the Pounds 23 million education budget. The decision was taken on the casting vote of the islands council's convener.

Bill Smith said he was disappointed that council staff had been sidelined. Mr Smith added: "I personally don't want to see any economies at all, but they can be made without affecting the quality and scope of education."

Jim Smith, the council's vice-convener, said that officials were too busy to do the work and too close to be "dispassionate". Mr Smith added: "If education doesn't start trimming, it will swallow up every other budget but roads and transport."

The council's education budget faced an 8.2 per cent cut amounting to Pounds 2 million, but this has been reduced by more than Pounds 1 million after calling on council reserves. A Pounds 900,000 shortfall remains.

Maisie Colligan, a former teacher, told fellow councillors: "What is at the bottom of this is that we want these unpalatable things said to us by someone else."

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