Highland Highlife Facilities Again Under The Microscope As Budget Deficit Continues
20th November 2023
The latest Highland Highlife report to the Highland council Education Committee on Thursday 23 November 2023 sets out the current financial position and actions taken to address many issues.
Since its inception in 2011 Highland Highlife as a registered charity has saved the Highland council many millions of pounds. However with the continual squeeze on council finances the amounts paid have become inadequate despite continual new saving being applied. More saving are being looked at by the board and this will involve reducing offices and perhaps threaten facilities like libraries.
This arrangement has consistently returned revenue savings for the Council with recent (5 year) savings averaging £1,086,496 p.a. (7% of Services Fee). Prior to 2023/24 savings have been achieved through income and efficiencies, whilst minimising service reductions. Notably, HLH has continued to take on additional services at the request of the Council, with 43 new services and facilities having been added to HLH since it was established in 2011. While this arrangement has meant that savings have been made for the Council, the wider economic situation in recent years has led to the terms of the contract being unsustainable.
6.1 The funding provided by the Council to HLH as a Services Fee is £16.1m (2023/24). The post-pandemic operating environment (particularly staff pay inflation) has meant that the Council has had to provide additional funding to HLH from Council reserves to help
protect services. This was included in the Council's budget when it was agreed at the Highland Council meeting held on 2 March 2023. HLH has mitigated a forecast £5.4m budget gap in 2023/24 by £2.4m through a combination of income, efficiencies and
agreed service reductions. The remaining £3m has been funded in 2023/24 from Council reserves. Given this, and the Council's own financial position, it is likely that a review of the SDC will have to include a reduction in the public service levels as well as a review
of the funding formula.
6.2 HLH has moved out of five properties and is in the process of looking at others which will make Council property budget savings, contributing to the Council's asset rationalisation.
6.3 Recruitment controls are in place to minimise the amount of additional Council funding required during financial year 2023/24. They are being implemented in advance of the work on the review of the SDC and might help to provide some flexibility depending on
future decision-making around the contract review.
The full report shows the wide range of services now undertaken by Highland Highlife on behalf of the council. Undoubtedly in terms of monetary savings it has been a huge success over past years. Nevetheless budgets are under severe pressure and it is likely that more changes will be need to maintain services that Highland people want.
Read the full report 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.