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.”
Highland Council has updated Wick Campus stakeholders and confirmed that the Campus has now been handed over by Hub North Scotland to the Council. The building is not as yet operational, and there are a number of outstanding works to be completed.
Highland Council is encouraging people across the region to have a go at balancing the Council's books - using a budget simulator. The Council is seeking feedback from local people as it prepares for the reduction in funding it receives from the Scottish Government.
Leader of The Highland Council, Margaret Davidson (Independent) has welcomed the outcome of the vote yesterday, 17th January 2017, in the Scottish Parliament, on the motion to reverse the decision to scrap the Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). Cllr Davidson said: "This vote sends a strong message to the Scottish Government about their incessant centralising agenda and we would now urge Ministers to reconsider their entire approach.
From 1 April 2017 the Scottish Government is changing the basis on which properties are assessed for Council Tax and this will increase the charge for Council Tax properties that are banded E to H. The Highland Council has no discretion in this matter and must apply these increases to the Council Tax charges from 1 April 2017.
The Leader of The Highland Council, Margaret Davidson has written to the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing MSP, in relation to the recent press coverage on concerns raised about the handling of emergency calls in the Highlands and Islands. Councillor Davidson said: "It does raise concerns over the Government's decision to close the Inverness Fire control room and transfer responsibility for handling emergency calls to Dundee.
The deadline for commenting on The Highland Council's draft Landscape Appraisals to help in the consideration of future proposals for wind energy development is drawing near - but has been extended to 31 January 2017. Two landscape sensitivity appraisals are currently being consulted on: one for the Caithness study area and another covering The Black Isle, surrounding hills and Moray Firth Coast.
Highland Council's administrative offices will close at 4pm on 23 December 2016 and reopen on 4 January 2017. The Service Centre will close at 4pm on 23 December and open as normal on 28, 29 and 30 December (closing at 4pm on 30 December) Service Points will be on reduced opening hours.
Highland Council is reminding pupils, parents and carers how to find out if their local school is closed or school transport is affected in anticipation of Storm Barbara hitting the north west of Scotland. Information on school closures is uploaded to the Council's school closures website www.highland.gov.uk/schoolclosures from 7am each morning School closure messages can be heard on the ‘school closures information line' by phoning 0800 564 2272 (with a school PIN number) to get the latest pre-recorded message from the head teacher of r child's school.
Since the introduction of Decriminalised Parking at Highland Council in October, the demand for Inverness Parking Permits has increased dramatically. This has seen the number of applications and permits issues increase from around 80 per month, to an average of 210 per month in October and November.
Highland Council is introducing pay and display parking at its headquarters car park as part of its Decriminalised Parking Enforcement Schemes. Cllr Allan Henderson, Chair of the Council's Community Services Committee said: "This change has come from a savings proposal agreed by Council in the December 2014 budget for implementation in 2015/16 to save £20,000 per year.
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