Highland Council Will Set The Budget On 5 March 2020
29th January 2020
Leader of The Highland Council will highlight the need for investment in roads at tomorrow's Corporate Resources meeting, Thursday 30 January 2020, in the light of an improving financial outlook.
After considerable effort by officials and councillors, a revenue monitoring report is forecasting a net year end underspend of £0.452m based on current trends. More rigorous financial governance and efficiency measures have the potential to improve the overall financial position further in the remainder of the year. However certain risks remain, including the impact of any severe weather on resources, along with the fact that the Scottish Government funding settlement will not be known until 6 February. The Council will now set its budget, later than intended, on 5 March, in an effort to ensure the best possible financial picture.
Mrs Davidson signalled the way ahead; She said: "We have been working along with our officials to create an improving financial outlook, through sustained control on spending across services over the past year. An element of caution remains as there are still a number of risks ahead. However, we are very clear about two things.
"Firstly, we need to rebuild our reserves and establish medium to long term financial plans for a more sustainable future for the Council and to ensure that we can deal with any emergency that may arise.
"Secondly, despite all the challenges, we desperately need to find a way to invest in our roads and infrastructure. This is a high priority for communities and fundamental to connectivity and the entire economy of the Highlands.
"We have the largest network of roads of any Local Authority along with the fact the Highlands has to deal with some of the most severe weather in the UK.
"Climate change is another factor which is creating an additional burden on our limited resources for even the most basic of repairs.
“I am hopeful that the Scottish Government recognises the real impact of climate change in the Highlands while finalising its budget and that this recognition will enable us to protect and invest in our infrastructure is a sustainable way."
The Highland Council has the longest road network in the UK with 4,000 miles of local roads, 1,000 miles of footpaths and 1,400 bridges spanning a region covering one third of Scotland.
Despite the upbeat statements by the council Audit Scotland just a few days ago issued a report that suggest things will be very tough for years to come.
Highland Council must make significant savings and change the way it delivers services to ensure it can live within its financial means.
A report by the Accounts Commission, Scotland's local authority watchdog, says in recent years the council has had a poor record of delivering on savings. It must also increase the current pace of change to realise budget savings of up to £77.3 million by 2023.
At the same time, over the last five years, the performance of many services has declined against national indicators, notably education. The council must also get better at evaluating and reporting on its own performance. This will help Highland Council understand why service performance is falling and drive forward improvement that's necessary for the future.
There have been recent changes within the council, including restructuring the senior management team. With difficult decisions to make, it is essential that councillors continue to work together constructively and involve staff and local communities.
Andrew Burns, member of the Accounts Commission says,"This report makes clear the very challenging financial position faced by the council and changes to the way services are delivered are vital. It is reassuring that change is now happening more quickly and it is really important that this momentum is maintained. It will, however, be very challenging for the council to meet all of its commitments and priorities.