Reductions And Removal Of More Council Services Likely 2018 - 2023
30th August 2017
Council to consider long-term financial planning.
The Highland Council will consider and agree its strategic approach to an uncertain and challenging financial outlook over the next five years, at its meeting on 7 September 2017.
Previously, in June 2017, the Council was presented with a Financial Outlook for the period 2018 - 2023. This identified a potential budget gap of around £160m (between £129m and £186m) over the period 2018-2023, based on a number of assumptions, particularly around the anticipated reducing level of Scottish Government Grant funding.
To put the gap in context, £160m is roughly equal to our total annual spend on primary, secondary and special education; or more than 2.5 times our total annual spend on roads, transport, environmental and amenity services.
In light of this financial forecast, the Council can no longer continue to provide the same services, at the same level, in the same way as before. By law, the Council is required to set a balanced budget for every financial year. The Council must identify proposals to reduce expenditure or raise additional income to deliver a balanced budget over the period 2018 -2023.
Chair of Corporate Resources, Cllr Alister Mackinnon said: "We are committed to becoming as efficient an organisation as possible and have already made substantial savings over the past few years, but such a huge gap cannot be addressed without a significant impact on our residents and service users. We aim to work on five key areas to find ways of meeting the gap. We will continue to look for efficiencies, aiming to improve processes and procedures to get the same outputs and outcomes at a reduced cost. Proposals to restructure the council and further reduce management costs is just one example of this.
"However, efficiency on its own will not be enough. We have already agreed we will focus on commercialisation of the Council, with the aim of taking a business-like approach and generating income to support core Council services.
"We will also need to raise income by introducing new, or increasing existing charges for some services the Council provides. I know this is painful and it will not be popular, as we are all used to getting a certain level of service, but we need to recognise that some people can afford to pay more for services which are not statutory or essential.
"We have already started a process of fundamentally reviewing how the Council provides its services to the public through Redesign over the past year £0.5m of savings will come from redesign this year with more in future years.
“We must also look at removing or reducing some services, which, although we want to deliver and we deliver successfully, local authorities do not have an obligation to provide. We need to question can we afford to continue to do this."
Cllr Mackinnon continued: “We have to deliver a balanced budget and this is without a doubt going to be the most difficult financial period that local government has ever experienced."
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.
Following the collapse of a 15 metre section of road at Soldiers Rock on the Knoydart peninsula late on Tuesday 24 October, work is progressing on repairing the landslip on the single track road. A full inspection of the affected road has been carried out and a Highland Council engineer will be on site on Wednesday this week to carry out preliminary work before detailed survey work is carried out on Friday.
Resident's from across the Highlands have provided positive feedback to the council's latest Citizen's Panel survey. Each year the panel of just over 2300 adults are asked for their views on the performance of the council and to provide information on their attitudes to a range of issues affecting them, their families and their neighbourhoods.
Highland Community Planning Partners have confirmed that they are now ready to receive a number of Syrian refugee families to Dingwall in the next few months. A group of officers and volunteers from The Highland Council, Police Scotland, NHS Highland, and Highland Third Sector Interface are working together to put preparations in place for housing, education and health support for the families.
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