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 and its Commercial and Procurement Shared Services partners Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils are running a series of events to help businesses supply to the public sector. Some of the events are hosted by other organisations and we will be signposting suppliers to these as well.
Leader of the Highland Council, Margaret Davidson has moved to reassure communities about forthcoming budget decisions. She said: "No decisions will be made until the Council meets on 15 February.
At Highland Council work has been ongoing for some months to prepare a Revenue and Capital Budget for 2018/19 and beyond, with the anticipation of a significant cut to available funds. The Scottish Government's proposed grant settlement was announced on 14 December 2017.
Around £3 million of funding has been agreed for a ground-breaking Highland project that could transform the lives of people with complex health needs as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal. The business case for the ‘FitHome' assisted living project was approved in November last year with £3m funding from the Scottish Government.
An article in the Press and Journal today 9th January 2018 highlights the cuts in staffing levels across Scottish councils with Highland being one of the highest. In 2009 Highland had 9953 Full-time Equivalent Staff and in 2017 it had dropped by 21% to 7838.
Highland Council Trading Standards team has recently seen an increase in scams targeting Highland businesses. The most common scams reported by businesses relate to marketing and publishing but other frauds such as those involving demands for payment for unsolicited goods sent to businesses (such as ink cartridges which were never ordered) are also on the rise.
Cognitive improvements to be included in Blue Badge scheme The disabled person's parking badge pilot, which was launched in April 2016, has been made permanent by the Scottish Government. The eligibility criteria were revised and extended under a pilot to allow carers and relatives of people who pose a risk to themselves or others in traffic to apply for a disabled person's parking badge, provided they meet the criteria.
People looking to pick up a New Year bargain in the sales on the internet, by mail order or on the high street are being encouraged by The Highland Council's Trading Standards team to be aware of their consumer rights and to stay safe online from scams and fake websites that try to dupe inexperienced online shoppers trying to buy a bargain. Consumers have extra protection when they shop online.
The British Hospitality Association secured a major victory today (21 December2017) as the Scottish Government confirmed that any plans for a ‘tourist tax' in Edinburgh - or any other Scottish cities - are firmly off the table. The BHA has been campaigning consistently for over six years against the implementation of any such additional and uncompetitive tax and is delighted that the Scottish Government has recognised our reservations.
Chief Executive of The Highland Council, Steve Barron said: "The Council is continuing to do all it can to support employees who lost their jobs following the change in contract for the processing of recycled waste. Evanton-based William Munro Construction laid off the staff after Highland Council transferred a recycling contract.
[Printer Friendly Version]