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 Councillors agreed a council tax increase of 3% which will mean an increase of £35.93 per annum on a Band D property. Overall, the budget gap of £15,146 million has been met by a package of savings which includes increasing Council Tax income by £3.448 million, increasing income by £3,059 million, setting a target of £2,250 million to be saved through Redesign and reducing expenditure by £5.1 million.
Redesign is about the Council being more open-minded to new ways of delivering services, more commercially-minded to raise income to support services and jobs across the region and being more community-minded, listening locally and supporting more community-run services. The Highland Council is seeking to release over £2.2 million in savings this year through redesign projects.
An election will take place for Dunnet and Canisbay Community Council on Wednesday 21 February 2018. The maximum permitted membership for the Community Council is 7 and as 8 nominations have been received, the 1349 electors in the community council area are being invited to cast their vote via a postal ballot.
Over three thousand people visited Inverness Town House last weekend to see for themselves the completion of interior works on the public historic Grade A listed building following recent renovations. Around 2,000 visitors passed through the Town House doors on Saturday 10th and another 1,200 people on Sunday 11th February.
Nomination packs for prospective candidates for the Caol and Mallaig Ward by-election are now available from The Highland Council's website. The by-election is being held following the sad death of Councillor Billy MacLachlan who was one of three Councillors representing Ward 11.
Maps of the Council's gritting routes by priority and policy are available online at www.highland.gov.uk/gritting The information provided is a summary of reports from operational staff and is intended to give a general indication of typical conditions in each area at a point in time. It is not intended to imply that any individual route is entirely snow and ice free and drivers must be aware that conditions can change rapidly and make their own assessment of conditions for travelling.
In recognition that roads are a high priority for communities in Highland the Administration at The Highland Council will be putting forward a budget on Thursday (15 February) that protects the budget for local roads. Chair of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Allan Henderson said: "We have nearly 7,000 kilometres of roads in the Highlands and this network is vital to our rural communities and lifeline services.
The Highland Council is asking stakeholders and members of the public for feedback on new draft guidance aimed at ensuring high quality designs for traditional, replacement and new shopfronts. Not only does the draft Shopfront Design Guide: Planning Guidance provide advice to help promote good quality applications but it encourages developers and applicants to consider design at the earliest stage in their proposals.
The Highland Council Budget team have agreed their final budget proposals which will go to Council for agreement on 15 February 2018. Budget Leader Councillor Alister Mackinnon said: "We have done everything we can to protect frontline services and jobs in a good budget.
The timetable for the election for the return of a councillor for the Caol and Mallaig ward of The Highland Council has been announced today (Monday 5 February) The by-election is being held following the sad death of Councillor Billy MacLachlan who was one of three Councillors representing Ward 11. The other Ward members are Councillors Allan Henderson (Independent) and Ben Thompson (Independent) The Notice of Election and Nomination Form will be published on the Council's website www.highland.gov.uk (external link) on Tuesday 13 February.
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