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.”
The Highland Council has responded to the news that the Board of The Highland Military Tattoo have taken the decision not hold another Tattoo. Provost of Inverness and Area Cllr Helen Carmichael said: "While we respect the decision of the Board of Directors of the Highland Military Tattoo, this is very sad news for the Highlands.
The Highland Council's chargeable garden waste brown bin collection service started on 3rd July 2017 and to date approximately 32,000 garden waste brown bin permits have been purchased. This accounts for 48% of households that previously received the Garden Waste Collection Service.
Pilot gives access to more than 120 libraries - and 1.6 million books. A pilot for a single card that can be used in any library has been launched in the north east.
The Highland Council received two awards at last week's Scottish Awards for Quality in Planning. One Award was in the "Process" Category for the Highland eDevelopment project and the second was in the "Place" category for the Nucleus Building in Wick.
The Highland Council is pleased to announce that the main phase of the work to construct the Kingussie Flood Alleviation Channel is now underway. The project is a joint venture between the Council and Pitmain Estate and is located on the Estate's land above the village of Kingussie.
The Highland Council achieved a 6% reduction in its year-on-year carbon emissions in 2016/17, equivalent to a saving of over 4,000 tonnes of CO2. In addition, thanks to a variety of energy efficiency measures implemented throughout the organisation, the Council saved almost £180k compared to the previous year, despite increasing energy costs.
Communities and developers will be invited to have their say in shaping a refreshed approach to dealing with developer contributions for developments across Highland. At today's Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee, members gave the go ahead for a six week public consultation on the Draft Developer Contributions Supplementary Guidance which will begin in early 2018.
Parent representatives from 206 Parent Councils across the Highland region have been invited to attend the Highland Parent Council Partnership conference which will be held on Saturday 18 Nov 2017 from 9:30am to 3:30pm. Guest speaker at the conference - to be held at Highland Council, Headquarters, Glenurquhart Road, Inverness - will be John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
The Highland Council have reviewed and updated the administrative procedures around miscellaneous and animal establishment licensing making it easier for people to access information and provide feedback. An online register of all applications is now published on the Council's website and the procedures are clear on how individuals or groups can raise concerns or object to applications for these types of licence.
The Highland Council remains on track to provide much-needed affordable homes for a growing population with a pledge in its Strategic Housing Plan 2018-2023 to approve 500 units each year of which 70% will be for affordable rent and 30% for low cost home ownership. Members of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee today (Wednesday 8 November) had the opportunity to discuss the Housing Investment Plan for 2018-2023 and to reaffirm the council's commitment to deliver new homes in the Highlands.
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