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Highland Council Administration Recommends Council Tax Freeze

5th February 2009

A freeze in the Council Tax is being recommended by the Independent/Liberal Democrat/Labour Administration of The Highland Council when the Council holds a special meeting on Thursday 12 February to confirm the 2009/10 Council Tax levels. The tax is set to remain at the 2008/9 level and deliver a revenue budget for 2009/10 of 598 million.

Increased spending of 23 million (or 4% increase) is included to meet pay awards, general inflation, the introduction of a new pay and grading structure, pensions, loan charges and provision of requisitions to the police, fire and valuation joint boards.

Councillor David Alston, Budget Leader and Chairman of the Budget Information Group, said: "There is growth in the budget and we have targeted monies at priority areas of spending for the Administration. We continue to invest an additional 1million each year in enabling older people to be supported in their own homes. We are maintaining our investment in improved grounds maintenance and litter picking, and we have committed more than 100,000 to expand money advice and improve benefit uptake, helping individuals hardest hit by the credit crunch. At the same time, we have balanced the books as far as possible by identifying genuine efficiencies in the way we deliver services, such as through smarter ways of buying goods, sharing services with other councils/partner organisations and better use of technology."

In confirming the budget for 2009/10, the Council has needed to find savings of 13 million and this will result in the deletion of the equivalent of 110 full time posts, some of which are vacant. The deletion of posts will be managed through natural wastage and redeployment. In line with its policy, compulsory redundancy would only be considered as a last resort.

Councillor Alston said the Council regretted having to delete posts but along with other local authorities in Scotland, the Council faced a challenging financial situation over the next few years. The downturn in the economy, the significant increase in fuel and energy costs, the reduction in income from planning applications and greater demand for support services to the community added to Council costs while the need to work within the Scottish Government's freeze on council tax restricted the income available to provide services.

He said: "We aim to be honest about these difficulties and to work with councillors, our staff and the public to protect, and where possible, improve our core services. We are committed to playing a full part in seeing the Highlands through the current financial and economic problems and we have asked all our Services to prepare long term financial plans to identify both savings and improvements for future years."

In recognition of spending restrictions, he stressed the Administration had made improvements to its financial planning processes and had introduced two-year planning to identify longer-term savings options.

The recommended Council Tax levels for 2009/10 are: -
A: 775.33 B 904.56 C 1,033.78 D 1,163 E 1,421.44 F 1,679.89 G 1,938.33 H 2,326. These are the same levels as 2008/09.

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