Highland Council Budget Leader Disappointed With Scottish Budget Announcements
18th December 2016
Reacting to the Scottish Government's Budget Settlement for 2017-18, Budget Leader of The Highland Council, Cllr Bill Fernie said:"Disappointingly, our worst predictions are realised in that there has been a real cash cut to councils of £350 million. The devil will be in the detail, but an early analysis equates this to a significant cut in the grant to our core budget. Further clarification is being sought on the extent of this.
"Two of the additional income streams announced are ring-fenced for educational attainment and to Health and Social Care, which is to be paid through the Health budget. These do not increase our core budget and therefore do not reduce the budget gap that the Council is facing.
“The Scottish Government has increased higher council tax bands substantially with the “Council Tax multiplier". This will mean higher bills for council tax payers in bands E and above.
“However, I am relieved to see that, following a motion agreed at The Highland Council, that money raised in Highland should stay in Highland, the Scottish Government are now allowing councils to retain this extra income with no constraints. This will help to reduce our Budget Gap by about £5million, leaving us having to find savings of possibly £20m to £25million.
“A cut to our budget on this scale will mean cuts to services and difficult decisions to be made. We will also need to increase our income and this may include increased charges and proposals to raise local council tax."
Cllr Fernie added: “We are currently preparing a range of potential draft budget options for discussion with staff, members and communities, prior to decisions in February 2017. We remain open to listening to the views of service users and the staff providing those services, and we are seeking consensus across the chamber in order to make the best, most pragmatic decisions for the people of Highland.”
Leader of the Council Margaret Davidson said: “The Scottish Government settlement effectively hands us money with one hand and takes it away with the other. Taking into account existing pressures and ring-fenced services, this leaves us with a huge budget gap. At least we now have a better idea of where we stand and where we stand is over a big hole in our budget, which will undoubtedly mean stopping or reducing some services. The planning and ground work to date has been useful, and we will now have to consult on a range of options to balance our budget.”
Mears signs new cost savings deal on PPP Highland schools project. Mears has signed a new deal with the Highland Council which will see millions of pounds saved over the lifetime of the Private Public Partnership (PPP) Highland Schools Project.
The Highland Council and partners are advising motorists of temporary road closures and speed restrictions which will be in place next weekend (22 - 23 April) during the Etape Loch Ness cycling event. The restrictions and prohibitions which are being put in place are for participants' safety and to allow the Etape to take place on public roads.
A Local business has been found in contempt of court after breaching an Enforcement Order previously issued following action taken by Highland Council Trading Standards. On the 12th April 2017 at Inverness Sherriff Court Ms Diane Urquhart, Director of Inverness Fireplace and Heating Centre and Mr Michael Armour also of Inverness Fireplace and Heating Centre were found in breach of an Enforcement Order issued under the Enterprise Act 2002 and in contempt of court.
The Highland Council advises that Non-Domestic Rates (NDR) bills for 2017/18 are now being issued. NDR is also known as Business Rates.
Voters are reminded of the deadlines for both registering to vote and applying to vote by post in the forthcoming Highland Council elections on Thursday 4 May. Registration: To be able to vote in the elections, voters must be 16 years or over on 4 May 2017 and must be registered to vote.
In response to a call for evidence on the impact of city-region deals in Scotland, by a Scottish Parliament Committee, Highland Council Director of Development and Infrastructure, Stuart Black said:"It is very early days to assess the impact of the City-Region Deal, however, it is anticipated that the impact of the Deal on Inverness and the wider Highland region will be significant in securing the long term productivity and economic growth of the region and position it as a region of digital opportunity. Regional partners estimate that the City-Region Deal funding of £315m could unlock up to an additional £800 million of investment by the private sector.
With Scottish Council elections taking place in just a few weeks, voters in the Highlands are being urged to make sure they are registered to vote and are able to take part on polling day, Thursday 4 May. The call for voters to sign up comes as the Electoral Commission launches a national voter registration campaign to encourage as many people as possible to register ahead of the elections taking place this year.
The Highland Council has awarded a contract to a world leading engineering design firm to carry out comprehensive flood protection studies for two Highland coastal towns. Thurso on the north coast and Golspie on the east coast have both suffered from flooding incidents over the years that has affected domestic and business properties and resulted in both towns being identified as Potentially Vulnerable Areas (PVAs) in the Highland and Argyll Local Flood Risk Management Plan.
The elections for the 74 seats on The Highland Council, being held on Thursday 4 May, will involve 165 candidates contesting all of the 21 multi-member wards. Caithness will now only have two wards instead of three.
The 2017 Highland Council election has been officially called today (Monday 13 March) with the Returning Officer seeking nominations from candidates wishing to stand in the local government elections which take place on Thursday 4 May. A total of 74 Councillors will be appointed to represent the Council in 21 electoral wards, each with three or four elected members.
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