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Next budget forum to be held in Strathy, Sutherland

27th June 2014

The next Highland Council budget forum will be held at 6.30pm on Tuesday 8 July in Strathy Village Hall, Strathy, Sutherland.

It is the latest in a series of budget events being held to consult the public over spending priorities between 2015-2019, during which time the Council has to find savings of an estimated £63 million.

The forum will include the first stage of public consultation on the Customer Service Review (including Service Points) agreed at the Council meeting in March. The feedback from the public and focus groups will help shape the Council's budget setting priorities.

Councillor Maxine Smith, the Council’s Budget Leader and new Chair of the Resources Committee, said: "The Council is keen to raise awareness of the implications of the budget constraints and importantly to engage with our communities to identify the services they want to protect and retain. It is vitally important therefore that communities participate in the local consultations to help identify which areas must be protected. I would really encourage people to come along and have their say."

The themes of the budget events are:

· What services should be provided and who should provide them?

· How should we provide our services?

· How can we organise our customer service provision (Service Points) in the future to deliver efficiency savings? We need to save £355,220.

· Can we provide some services less, some less frequently or stop providing some services altogether?

· What more could the Council do to generate income to pay for services?

· How do we prevent costs in the future?

Members of the public attending the Budget Forums will also be given information about:

· the £63m of savings to be made and why we must do things differently to avoid cutting services;

· how much some services cost;

· what we have saved already; and

· what the public have told us before, how we used that information and why we need their help again.

There will be a further consultation from mid-September to early November, involving the Council’s Citizens’ Panel of 2,700 adults and see the creation of a new Communities’ Panel to consult with as well. This new Panel will be drawn from groups representing communities across the Highlands, including community councils, other established community groups including those representing people with disabilities. An on-line survey for others interested will be also be available. These surveys will be developed from the consultation responses from stage one and would have a greater focus on specific proposals with detailed projections of savings and impacts.

Services are currently undertaking consultation with staff across the organisation to identify savings that can be considered for inclusion in the budget strategy and the outcomes will be fed into phase 1. Further consultation will then take place with unions and staff, as part of phase 2 consideration of detailed proposals.

 

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