Highland Council Statement On Scottish Government Additional Funds
1st February 2019
Budget Leader Cllr Alister Mackinnon responded to the Scottish Government's revised budget settlement.
He said: "Further to receiving detailed information yesterday evening, we now have a more accurate picture of what this means for Highland.
“The new settlement provides £4.228M additional cash, contrary to other figures reported. This gives us a little more flexibility, but still leaves us faced with a very challenging budget situation. We now need to consider how we can best use this money, bearing in mind our Reserves are below the recommended amount and we have considerable risk moving forward in future years.
“The Government have also now given Local Authorities the ability to raise additional money from charging communities higher Council Tax, by lifting the cap above 3%. We have had a lot of feedback from the public about income generation, but we are aware of many household’s already with stretched financial circumstances. So we will need to carefully consider now to what extent we should use this power."
He added: “We plan to launch our consultation on the Tourist levy later in February as agreed by Council in December.”
Investment of an additional £1.5m for roads maintenance was approved as a priority area for the Council's revenue budget. The additional money will help to boost the annual budget for pothole repairs, clearing culverts, and bridge maintenance.
Tighter controls on what can be taken to the public recycling centres are set to save £300,000 over the next two financial years. This proposal introduces restrictions on construction and demolition waste brought to our Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC), limiting quantities to small amounts generated through minor DIY activities.
The main activities that the social enterprise groups currently carry out directly for Highland Council waste management are the servicing of re-use containers on our household waste recycling centres (HWRCs). These currently divert around 150 tonnes from 11 HWRCs.
Newstart Highland that took over Home Aid in Caithness is set to lose a £75,000 grant from 2019/20. The Highland council agreed the reduction at its budget meeting on 14th February 2019.
Planning and building warrant income is to be increased over 3 years as part of the Highland council 3 year budget plan. 2019/20 - £600,000 2020/21 - £328,000 2021/22 - £182,000 Total - £110,000,000 The current income target for planning and building control fees is £4.867m.
Savings of £610,000 are being asked from Highland Highlife in addition to inflationary pressures of £900,000 to be absorbed by the organisation. The arms length organisation has proved to be an outstanding success in the few years since it was floated by the council.
Highland councillors reluctantly agreed to range of increase charges under the community services part of the budget. Many of the charges reflect inflationary increases The total of £2.063 million will be rolled out as follows - 2019/20 - £771,000 2020/21 - £.636,000 2021/22 - £656,000 The split is as follows - Export licences for fish were included in the above figures but a change was agreed at the meeting that should make the saving in total.
Additional Income projected £216k of is projected for thenext three years - 2019/20 - £118,000 2020/21 - £58,000 2021/22 - £40,000 Through a proactive approach to lease extensions (with premiums) and increases in rental income the council will seek to maximise the performance of the industrial and investment portfolio, including selling off poor performing industrial sites and focusing investment on high performing, high rental sites and properties. Net income £2.776m - excludes income for the Housing Revenue Account and Inverness Common Good Fund.
The Highland council agrred to slash £258,000 from the budget for Early Years organisations for 2019/20 The current budget for Early Years' Grants is £458k per annum. This is primarily an area-based budget where partners are able to apply for funding for one-off grants.
Councillors today 14th February 2019 agreed to increase the price of school meals despite some councillors pointing out that previous increase last year resulted in reduced number taking the meals. Councillors have little room to help as they did in the past to basically subsidise meals.
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