Highland Council Considers Planning For 3-year Budget Gap
7th September 2018
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.
The budget assumptions are based on two key variables, namely the level of revenue grant funding received from the Scottish Government and the annual staff pay award. The budget gap could range from £34.1m to £124.9m, because the Council has no certainty on either of these variables. Having such a wide potential range for the budget gap, makes planning work incredibly difficult, and so it has been decided that the budget planning will focus on a scenario of a 1% annual reduction in government grant funding and an annual 3% pay award. Setting the variables at this level assumes a budget gap of £66.7m over the 3 year period.
Over the period 2013/14 to 2018/19 the Highland Council has already had to approve budget savings of £102.1 million as well as agree Council tax rises of 3% in each of the last two years in order to deliver a balanced budget.
Budget Leader Councillor Alister Mackinnon said: "In Scotland, local government has probably been the hardest hit of the wider public sector in terms of real terms reductions in funding. This Council has seen a cut in real terms over the past 5 years and the outlook continues to look grim.
"The future is by no means certain, but by assuming a budget gap of £66.7m, this allows us to prepare a plan which we can adapt as new information arises. This way, by starting our planning early, we can prioritise and accelerate proposals or defer certain options if we can.
"Work is already well advanced in developing information to inform the budget process. This involves taking a close look at services and identifying where there are opportunities for becoming more efficient and commercial and ensuring there is best value for every penny spent."
He continued: "It has not been easy in the past budgets and it will not be easy to find even more savings on top of those we have already made. Income generation, commercialisation and efficiencies become even more vital in this context in order to protect essential services and we do not have the luxury of the significant reserves we once had to give us any wriggle room. It is undoubtedly the case that there will be very hard decisions to make and we all need to work across the chamber to do the best we can for the people of the Highlands."
A recently produced report by SPICe highlights that between 2013/14 and 2017/18 there was a 7.1% fall in the local government revenue settlement in real terms. Over that same period the Scottish Government revenue budget decreased by 1.8% in real terms. The same SPICe report identifies that over the period 2013/14 to 2018/19 Highland Council has seen a reduction in funding per head of population of £172, the fourth highest of all mainland authorities.
At his last official function The Highland Council's retiring CEX Steve Barron has paid tribute to two members of staff for their outstanding work. During The Highland Council's Quality Awards event, held last Thursday in Inverness Town House, he took the opportunity to present a special commendation award to the Council's Project Co-ordinator for War Memorials Alf Leslie.
UNISON will start to take steps towards strike action. The local government joint trade unions - who have also run consultative ballots of their members - will be meet with CoSLA to inform them of the results of their ballots, tomorrow Friday 9th November.
A Cook at Broadford Primary School on the Isle of Skye has scooped the Highland Council's Employee of the Year 2018 Award for her commitment to promote healthy eating and for inspiring pupils to get involved from "plot to plate" Annette Burfooot, who has been at the school for 11 years, is described as a skilled and dedicated member of staff who is passionate about promoting healthy eating and regularly goes into classrooms to chat to the children about nutrition and developing healthy eating habits. She also encourages them to proactively get involved in the planning of menus for school meals making the most of fresh herbs and vegetables grown in the school garden.
Highland Council has become the first local authority in Scotland to develop a holistic strategy and action plan to reduce the consumption of single use plastics from its sites and schools, and the wider community. The strategy and action plan was approved at a meeting of the Council's Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee today (8 November 2018).
The Council remains on track to provide much-needed affordable homes. Members of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee today (Thursday 8 November 2018) have approved the Council's Strategic Housing Investment Plan for 2019-2024 that will see a minimum of 500 units being built each year of which 70% will be for affordable rent and 30% for low cost home ownership.
The Highland Council has announced the publication of updated guidance on financial contributions required from new developments towards new infrastructure and services. The Developer Contributions Supplementary Guidance now forms part of the Council's Development Plan which is used to determine planning applications in Highland.
Thousands of illicit cigarettes have been uncovered by Highland Council's Trading Standards Officers with a little help from two specially-trained, four-legged detectives. Spaniels Dixie and Daisy from Consumer Protection Dogs were enlisted by the region's Trading Standards team to detect the smell of tobacco.
Nine candidates are standing for election to fill a vacancy for the Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh Ward of The Highland Council. The by-election is being held following the resignation of Kate Stephen who was one of four Councillors representing Ward 5.
WICK and Thurso now have access to free WiFi in and around the centre of their towns thanks to a project led by the Highland Council and funded by the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal. The free WiFi, called "High-Fi", is aimed at stimulating economic growth and will increase digital inclusion across the Highlands.
The Highland Council is ready for winter and prepared to grit council roads as the council's winter maintenance programme started on 14 October 2018. Trunk roads in Highland are the responsibility of Transport Scotland and their operators Bear Scotland.
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