Highland Council Projecting A Huge Budget Gap
27th October 2023
The Highland Council has forecast a significant financial gap for the coming years, with a projected budget gap of £60-70 million for next year (2024/25).
Members have a legal obligation to set a balanced budget and proposals will be developed and presented to Council for agreement at the end of February 2024.
There is still considerable uncertainty until the end of December around what the grant will be from the Scottish Government for 2024-25, and the funding to implement a Council Tax freeze.
Leader of the Council Raymond Bremner said: "While we understand the cost of living crisis for our communities, local authorities are also facing incredible cost pressures in the shape of inflation, high rates of interest and the need to fund pay settlements.
"We anticipate we will have an unprecedented budget gap next year of around £60-70m and a shortfall of around £100m over the next 3 years has been forecast.
"Without adequate funding, we will have a choice of making service reductions or increasing income or a mixture of both. Service reductions would also mean job losses and that is something we are doing everything possible to avoid, as this would be disastrous for communities and our economy in the Highlands."
Convener Bill Lobban added: "This Council has managed through prudent financial management to build up a level of reserves which were used to balance our budget this year. However, that cannot continue, and we must find a sustainable way forward to ensure we can provide the badly needed services that Highland people deserve, including having control over our spending and the income we generate."
Councillor Derek Louden Chair of Resources Committee said: "Last year we set one of the lowest council tax rates in Scotland in recognition of the cost of living crisis in our communities.
"Council tax freezes have a long term negative impact on local authority budgets and effectively widen the budget gap in the coming years.
“We will continue to work with our COSLA colleagues, to get clarification of the Scottish Government's plans and how the cost of any freeze would be funded, both for next year and mitigation of the impact on future years' budgets."
Read the council paper HERE
Highland Council continues to explore external funding opportunities to help families in the region who experience disproportionately higher levels of fuel poverty than the rest of Scotland. External funding is targeted at households classed as fuel and extreme fuel poor and is available Highland-wide.
The Highland Council is inviting applications from groups and organisations to the ‘Communities and Place' strand of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). £1 million of funding is available for capital and revenue projects, that will empower communities to build on their own strengths, support local needs, and deliver on the fund's main objective of ‘building pride in place and increasing life chances'.
A strategy which proposes a two-stage approach towards the development of vibrant community hubs in partnership with High Life Highland and sportscotland was agreed at the Council's Education Committee. The report set out the principles for investment over the long-term and the next steps to develop individual plans for each of the Council's 29 associated school group (ASG) areas.
The Highland Council are inviting all tenants to have their say on the rent levels for the year ahead. We encourage everyone that lives in a council house to take this chance to have their say, the results of this will have a direct impact on the services we are able to deliver next year and in the future.
Suppliers working in the wedding market are being invited by Highland Registrars to a newly established Wedding Fair. The Highland Wedding Fair will take place on Sunday 4 February 2024 with public access from 11.00am - 3.00pm (suppliers will have access from 8:30am).
The Highland Council has announced the timetable to make a final attempt to reform the 30 Community Council elections that failed to form in September 2023. Community Councils are voluntary organisations that express the views and concerns of local people within their area across a wide range of issues from new buildings and roads to local services and facilities.
For the first time, The Highland Council's Employability Service is offering Paid Third Sector Placements to unemployed Highland residents. Funded by the Scottish Government through the No One Left Behind policy, this initiative proposes 6-month paid work experience placements hosted by charities and non-for-profit organisations.
Highland Council's Playpark Strategy and Action Plan for 2023-2033 was agreed and adopted by members of the Communities and Place Committee on 29 November 2023. Resource - The service has limited revenue budget for maintenance of £176,900 for all sites.
It was announced on Friday 1 December 2023 that Workhaus Projects has been awarded the contract to carry out the interpretation for the interior of the Inverness Castle Experience. Workhaus Projects will combine creativity, design, technology and craftsmanship to create a world-class visitor experience within the transformed castle building, bringing the vision of content designers Mather & Co to fruition.
Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth has announced £900,000 in new funding for staff to tackle poor behaviour and attendance in schools. The funding will be provided directly to local authorities to train support staff to respond to new challenges and develop behaviour management strategies in schools post COVID.