Highland Council Proposals For A Three-year Budget.
9th February 2019
The proposals are based on themes which emerged from weeks of consultation with staff, communities, groups and partners. The themes focus on Efficiencies, Income generation, Redesign and a flexible Workforce.
The Council has identified a budget gap of £60.297m (10.65% of the 2018/19 budget) for the period 2019/20 to 2021/22. This gap reflects the difference between the estimated costs of continuing current service levels plus the additional costs of any new expenditure commitments and the income the Council will have available to it over the period.
Budget Leader Councillor Alister Mackinnon said: "This is a budget for jobs. We are the second biggest employer in the Highlands and our staff are central to their local communities. Council jobs are fundamental to the economy of the Highlands and we are committed to delivering a budget which protects jobs and services and doing everything we can to avoid redundancies.
Many pages of the budget proposals show job reductions but the council is continuing its policy of no redundancies where possible.
"We have engaged extensively in recent weeks and months with staff and communities and we have been working positively across political groups to achieve consensus so that the budget will be supported as widely as possible.
"The £4.2M additional funding from the Scottish Government is very welcome, however we still have a significant budget gap to balance. We plan to use £2.5M of this money to create a change fund which will help us to deliver a programme of transformational change across the Council."
Scottish Government is allowing councils to reduce adult care spending by 2.2% but again the Highland council proposal is not to do so.
Leader of the Council Margaret Davidson said: "Despite the cap on council tax being raised, we are proposing to restrict any increase to 3% to protect hard pressed family budgets as far as possible." The Scottish Government is allowing councils to raise council tax by 4.79% but Highland council has decided to go with the lower rise.
The Administration wish to make additional investment in roads maintenance, recognising this as a particular priority area, and as such are proposing adding a recurring £1.5m to the roads budget.
She added: "I want to thank everyone who has participated in the process of putting these proposals together. We have had very honest and open dialogue with all members throughout and I welcome all the views and suggestions we have received. Our final proposals reflect that considered feedback and I am hopeful that all members across the chamber will get behind this budget which is designed to deliver more sustainable services with a more secure and flexible workforce."
With regard to reduction in jobs the budget report states "The Council is committed to do all that it can to avoid redundancies and has an excellent track record of managing service change and savings without the need for redundancies. The Council workforce is currently around 10,270 people with an average rate of over 10% staff turnover per annum meaning that over 1,000 people are recruited each year. Strict vacancy controls are already in place for recruitment, with some 435 vacant posts currently held back. This provides the opportunity to re-profile the workforce while protecting jobs."
Education will see a range of reductions
The third sector will also see further cuts but with many held over for one more year to allow reviews to be undertaken.
There are a wide range of increases in charges including school meals, lets of schools, burials, cremations, heavy uplifts, garden wast collection and several more
To see the full details see Agenda and Reports available at - https://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/4084/highland_council
The council meets on 14th February 2019 at 10.35am to agree the budget. The meeting will be webcast on the Highland council web site at https://highland.public-i.tv/core/portal/home