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
Following a pre-planning drop-in session at the end of September 2018, The Highland Council has given the public a further 28 days to share their views and comment on the proposal for a new Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at the Longman landfill site in Inverness. The public can now visit the Council's website to find out more about the MRF and to share their views on the proposal.
Dr James Vance, Head Teacher at Culloden Academy has been appointed as interim Head of Education Services with The Highland Council's Care and Learning Service. Dr Vance, who starts his new employment in January 2019, will be based at the Council's headquarters on Glenurquhart Road, Inverness.
The Highland Council has submitted a planning application for a low head hydroelectric development at the Torvean Weir on the River Ness at land 430m south west of Highland Rugby Club, on Bught Road, Inverness Using an Archimedes screw the hydroelectric scheme will have a generating capacity of up to 100kW and an average annual renewable energy output of approximately 600,000 kWh per annum. The renewable energy generated will return an income to the Council through the Feed in Tariff mechanism and be connected to the local Archive Centre and leisure centre.
The Highland Council is carrying out the formal review of its Polling Districts and Places. This review is required in terms of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 as all polling districts and polling places should be reviewed at least every four years.
Joint operation identifies poor standards of food safety and staff living accommodation. Highland Council Environmental Health Officers were required to take formal enforcement action regarding poor standards of food safety during a recent multi-agency operation led by Immigration Enforcement.
The Scottish Government's announcement of a consultation on the introduction of a visitor levy ("tourist tax") has been welcomed by The Highland Council. Convener Bill Lobban recently gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, where he emphasised the importance of tourism to the Highlands.
The Highland Council has appointed a new Chief Executive. The successful candidate is Donna Manson, currently Service Director for Children and Young People in the Scottish Borders.
Local services throughout Scotland could be plunged into crisis after - UNISON, Unite and the GMB - wrote to COSLA to say they will recommend their members reject their revised pay offer when they consult them in the coming weeks. The revised pay offer, made by COSLA on 6th September 2018, was a 3% increase for all local government workers earning up to £80,000, but the trade unions are angry that this is below inflation and does not improve low pay.
Members have discussed the consultation and proposed response to a review of the structure of the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme. The Highland Council Pension Fund is one of eleven constituent funds of the Scottish Local Government Pension Scheme.
The Highland Council has agreed to plan for a potential budget gap of £66.7 million over the next three years. It was agreed by Members in June to develop plans for a multi-year budget for the next 3 financial years (2019-22) to meet the challenge of a potential funding gap dependent on a wide range of variables.
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