Date set for Council budget consultation in Caithness
19th May 2014
A date has been set for a budget event being held in Caithness by The Highland Council to consult with the public over spending priorities between 2015 - 2019 during which time the Council has to find savings of an estimated £63 million.
The forum is being held on Tuesday 27 May at 6:30pm in Wick Assembly Rooms. It is one of a series of 13 events being held throughout the Highlands by the Council.
The forum will also include the first stage of public consultation on the Customer Service Review (including Service Points) agreed at the Council meeting in March. Feedback from the public and focus groups will help shape the Council’s budget setting priorities.
Councillor Deirdre Mackay, Leader of the Council’s Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee, said: “As a result of the financial crash funding for local government continues to reduce significantly and this means that the Council needs to make significant cost reductions.
“Over the last few years Highland Council has worked hard to deal with the financial challenge in a way that has had minimal impact on the public. The Council, however, faces making further savings of £63 million and is keen to raise awareness of the implications of the situation and importantly to engage with our communities to identify the services they want to protect and retain. It is vitally important therefore that communities participate in the local consultations to help identify which areas must be protected, where savings could be made and potentially where more income could be generated. This backdrop is set against the Council’s priorities of continued investment in care for our older people and investment for early years. I would really encourage people to come along and have their say.”
The themes of the budget event are:
· What services should be provided and who should provide them?
· How should we provide our services?
· How can we organise our customer service provision (Service Points) in the future to deliver efficiency savings? We need to save £355,220.
· Can we provide some services less, some less frequently or stop providing some services altogether?
· What more could the Council do to generate income to pay for services?
· How do we prevent costs in the future?
Members of the public attending the budget forum will also be given information about:
· the £63m of savings to be made and why we must do things differently to avoid cutting services;
· how much some services cost;
· what we have saved already; and
· what the public have told us before, how we used that information and why we need their help again.
There will be a further consultation from mid-September to early November, involving the Council’s Citizens’ Panel of 2,700 adults and see the creation of a new Communities’ Panel to consult with as well. This new Panel will be drawn from groups representing communities across the Highlands, including community councils, other established community groups including those representing people with disabilities. An on-line survey for others interested will be also be available. These surveys will be developed from the consultation responses from stage one and would have a greater focus on specific proposals with detailed projections of savings and impacts.
Services are currently undertaking consultation with staff across the organisation to identify savings that can be considered for inclusion in the budget strategy and the outcomes will be fed into phase 1. Further consultation will then take place with unions and staff, as part of phase 2 consideration of detailed proposals.