Scottish tourist town should 'hire out school beds' to generate income

Councillor McCuishsaid Glencruitten Hostel's empty beds - used by Oban High School's island pupils during term time - could accommodate summer visitors.
Councillor McCuishsaid Glencruitten Hostel's empty beds - used by Oban High School's island pupils during term time - could accommodate summer visitors.
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A Scottish council is being urged to hire out a tourist town's school hostel beds during the holidays to generate income.

Argyll and Bute Councillor Roddy McCuish claims the move could bring in much-needed cash as the local authority is faced with slashing jobs and services to save £9.2million.

Councillor McCuish said Glencruitten Hostel's empty beds - used by Oban High School's island pupils during term time - could accommodate summer visitors.

As Argyll and Bute Council prepares to go to public consultation, over its budget options,

Councillor McCuish said: "We have an 85 bed hostel for our island children which is shut all summer, but with a skeleton staff, that could be used for things like training camps. We could also open up Oban High School in the summer and hire out the use of facilities there. We also have a hostel in Dunoon.

"Perhaps we have to look at councils being more commercial, to charge for things they don't charge for and look at getting income rather than cutting things."

Councillor McCuish, a former leader of the council, suggests that council-owned ports and harbours could become more commercial and the local authority could investigate taking on contract work, for other councils and housing associations, for services like planning and grass cutting.

The independent councillor added: "There could also be shared services between local authorities, instead of the situation at the moment where gritters come down as far as Appin and go back because they are from Highland region."

Options to meet next year's budget in Argyll include raising burial charges by 20%, axing 58.5 full time equivalent jobs and closing some public toilets.

However, Councillor McCuish said: "You can only cut so much and we are now not on the bone, we are into the bone."

The council is looking at the possible transfer of the ferries it runs between Easdale/Seil, Lismore/Port Appin, Luing/Seil; and Jura/Islay to Transport Scotland, to save £1million a year

Council Leader, Councillor Aileen Morton, said: “We’ve been doing a lot of work to raise awareness of Argyll and Bute’s opportunities and challenges among those who could support its future.

"Argyll and Bute needs its council to provide more services than many other councils, for example ferry services. Argyll and Bute though has had a bigger cut to its council funding over recent years than most other areas in Scotland.

"We’ve been promoting Argyll and Bute’s cause therefore in different ways, to try to secure more support for its council services. We want Argyll and Bute to thrive."

Work done includes setting up a forum that brings together Argyll and Bute’s parliamentarians to consider local issues and opportunities and leading a partnership of west coast councils seeking Scottish Government support in addressing de-population.

The council is also raising Argyll and Bute's challenges nationally via COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) and working with other island authorities to promote island needs at UK and Scottish Government level.

The council budget consultation will be available on the council’s website (www.argyll-bute.gov.uk), from council customer service points, and by calling 01546 604171 from October 28 and will run until December 16.