Highland Council Budget Leader warns of even tougher decisions to come
24th May 2018
Speaking at Highland Council's Corporate Resources Committee today (24 May 2018), Budget Leader Cllr Alister Mackinnon said that the Council's reported overspend showed the extent to which successive budget reductions and council tax freezes meant the authority had no wriggle room to manage significant pressures in demand-led services like supporting children with additional support needs. He said:"We have done everything we can to protect front line services and particularly services to children and young people. That is why our focus has been on finding ways to increase income, such as car parking, or ways to reduce expenditure in areas where we have no statutory responsibility.
"I know not everyone supports these measures, but today's report should leave no one in any doubt that we have to deliver these commitments and also look for additional ways in which we can meet current and future budget challenges.
"Personally, I see no prospect of the budget situation improving and I fear there are even tougher decisions ahead of us and we all have to acknowledge that."
The Council's Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Corporate Resources, Derek Yule said that "...it was very rare for the Council to return an overspend." He said that the Council's elected members should see this as a "wake up call and recognise the need to make tough decisions about where to cut services... and to stick by those decisions."
The financial report from the council meeting can be seen at -
This report provides a summary of the near final revenue budget spend for financial year 2017/18. The position is described ‘near final’ pending the completion of the year-end accounts and audit process.
Net spend on services for the year totalled £550.619m against a budget of £549.093m. This represents a net overspend on services of £1.526m, a significant improvement from the forecast position reported at quarter 3.
Due to decisions taken in the year and other legislative requirements the Council transferred £5.022m into its earmarked balances and other specific reserves during the year. These transfers were £0.354m above the budgeted level.
On the funding side the Council received government funding and Council Tax £0.837m in excess of budget, with income of £552.839m against a budget of £552.002m.
Overall the difference between total expenditure of £555.641m and total income of £552.839m was £2.802m. That sum reflects the amount of excess expenditure which requires to be funded from the Council’s non-earmarked general fund reserve. Of this £1.759m was planned with the balance of £1.043m being the unplanned deficit recorded at year end.
Over the course of the year the Council’s general fund non-earmarked balance has reduced from £11.363m to £8.561m. The year-end balance represents 1.56% of the annual revenue budget.
Debate on webcast at
Police in Lochaber can confirm that a 27-year-old man has been arrested in connection with alleged consumer protection offences in Fort William. It follows an investigation by Police Scotland and Highland Council Trading Standards, after a report was received this week of "bogus workmen" in Fort William and alleged fraudulent activity relating to charges for work carried out on a house in the town.
DETAILED analysis of the Scottish Government's funding settlement, which makes up the vast proportion of the Council's budget, has been carried out and the net result is that the Highland Council will see a reduction in its grant funding to provide the current level of services. This, together with the additional pressures equates to a £31.2M budget gap for 2019-20.
Highland Council Trading Standards have produced guidance on how to spot the signs of scams that target businesses and also remind businesses to inform their employees on what to look out for when dealing with unsolicited telephone calls, emails and texts. All businesses as well as non-profit organisations (such as charitable organisations) may spend a lot of time dealing with potential scammers.
The Highland Council has written to parents and carers of school transport pupils to inform them that D&E Coaches have recently transferred a number of Highland Council contracts to Stagecoach and some school transport routes are included. These changes are to take effect from the first day back after the school holidays, Monday 7th January 2019 and timetables have been supplied for the routes affected.
Twenty nine members of The Highland Council's Care and Learning team have celebrated their success in completing the Council's 15 month ‘Lead On’ programme. ‘Lead On’, is a programme designed to develop practitioners’ understanding of change leadership and apply this through a change initiative in their place of work.
Highland Councillors are looking forward beyond the current Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal and asking: "What next and where?". Following publication of the Deal's annual report, Leader of The Highland Council Cllr Margaret Davidson said: "A meeting will be convened in the New Year with Councillors who have a particular interest in the City-Region Deal to talk about where we can go next and what we can do.".
Work underway to determine Highland's Budget allocation. Commenting after the news received last night of Councils' individual allocations, from the Scottish Government’s draft Budget, Budget Leader Councillor Alister Mackinnon said: "Having received the details of our allocation just last night, it will take some time to work through the proposed settlement and do a detailed analysis.
THROUGHOUT the month of November, The Highland Council's Chief Executive and members of the budget team have met with staff, groups and communities across the length and breadth of the Highlands. These sessions were part of a budget engagement exercise which also included facebook chats, survey, leaflet, video, and a budget challenge to raise awareness of budget challenges and gather views and priorities.
The Highland Council is to carry out a public consultation on the implementation of a transient visitor levy in the New Year. During the Council's public engagement activity during November, a strong theme was support for raising income from tourism, including a tourist levy, which could support local infrastructure, as well as the tourism sector itself.
Members have agreed six priority commitments in a revised Council Programme at today's council meeting. The six themes within the Programme are: A Council that Champions the Highlands; A Place to Live; A place to Thrive; A place to Prosper; A Welcoming Place; and Your Highland Council These themes and the actions which the council has agreed to, reflect priorities which have emerged through the round of public engagement during November.
[Printer Friendly Version]