A SCOTTISH island council is facing a £27 million funding gap over the next four years, a watchdog has said.

The Accounts Commission warned that Orkney Islands Council faces the “significant” gap between 2024 and 2028.

In a new report, the watchdog said that although the council “delivers high quality services [which are] valued by local communities”, it must focus on financial sustainability moving forward.

The commission said it was “concerned there is a significant gap between the council’s transformation plans and ambitions, and its ability to deliver on them”.

Orkney Islands Council serves around 22,000 people.

Ronnie Hinds, the chair of the Accounts Commission said: “Orkney Islands Council benefits massively from its rich natural resources and the legacy of its significant Strategic Reserve Fund, with money available to benefit the Orkney Islands and its local people. But facing a significant funding gap, the council needs to face reality and halt the unplanned depletion of reserves.

“We need to see a robust plan delivered this year on how reserves will be used, to achieve lasting changes for local communities and future generations. A vital part of this will be continuing consultation with island communities.”

The commission warned that challenges such as “relatively high costs and difficulty recruiting and retaining staff” were more acute on Orkney as an island community.

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However, it said that the archipelago also has “significant opportunities, which it must use to its advantage” including “abundant natural resources as well as very positive relationships with its communities”.

Heather Woodbridge, the depute leader of Orkney Islands Council, said: “Orkney Islands Council welcomes this external independent scrutiny by the Accounts Commission reporting on our performance and strategic direction as a local authority.

“The report commends the council on delivering a high-quality service which is valued by communities across Orkney, whilst highlighting budget challenges in the years ahead.

“It will now be for elected members to consider the findings of the report and decide on the necessary actions in committee.”