Delivering the Highland Council budget through change
1st May 2019
The Chief Executive and Budget Leader are meeting with all budget holders this week to set out the need for tight budget controls to continue throughout the year.
The Council approved the Council's change programme "A Sustainable Highland" in February, which is set to deliver £37.456m savings over the next three years.
The Council is currently operating with an overspend of over £5M and some savings from 2018-19 are still to be achieved. There is also the risk of the emergence of new unbudgeted pressures such as rising costs.
A Change Fund of £2.5m has been set aside to help resource and deliver the change programme and Council will be asked next week to approve the use of £1M of the fund to resource the necessary changes to deliver the savings. The remaining fund is earmarked to cover risk.
Meetings have been held this week with all of the Council's budget holders to explain the context of the Council's financial situation, to set out tight budget controls and to share ideas and best practice for dealing with reducing spend.
Budget Leader Alister Mackinnon said:"The Council must live within its means in meeting customer needs and we must deliver our legal responsibilities. We simply can't afford to spend beyond our means, no matter how compelling the case. We now have the lowest levels of reserves we have ever had and there will always be emerging pressures to deal with over the course of the year. This year’s savings will not be easy, but we have to deliver them. If we haven’t got the money, we can’t carry on as before and we have to change."
Chief Executive Donna Manson said:"Our budget holders are key to the success and they now understand the necessary controls which are planned and the important roles they play in order to restrict expenditure.
"The meetings with budget holders have been extremely positive with managers fully engaged in being part of the solution. There has been really honest dialogue and lots of good ideas for how we can adapt and find ways of working together to make the changes necessary to deliver a balanced budget. I am impressed and inspired with the leadership I have seen in our staff."
Budget measures will include continuing to hold non-essential vacancies, controlling the use of agency staff on which the Council spent over £3M last year, avoiding the use of consultants and outsourcing where possible, and additional procurement controls.
Highland Council's Environmental Health team have identified raised levels of naturally occurring algal toxins following routine monitoring in coastal waters at Loch Glencoul, Kylesku area. Eating shellfish such as cockles, mussels, oysters or razor fish from these areas may pose a health risk arising from the consumption of these algal toxins.
Highland Council's Environmental Health team has identified raised levels of naturally occurring algal toxins following routine monitoring in coastal waters at Loch Eishort. Eating shellfish such as mussels, cockles, oysters or razor fish from these areas may pose a health risk arising from the consumption of these algal toxins.
Funding for food and activities during the summer break. More children and young people will benefit from a nutritious meal and a place to play this summer holiday.
At a meeting of The Highland Council on Thursday 27 June 2019, Councillors decided to discontinue the provision of education at Altnaharra Primary School, dividing its catchment area between Tongue Primary, Farr Primary and Lairg Primary schools. A copy of the consultation report, together with the original proposal paper and all relevant appendices can be viewed on the Council's website at: www.highland.gov.uk/schoolconsultations The Council is satisfied that implementation of closure is the most appropriate response to the reasons for formulating the original proposal identified by the authority.
"Highland Council as agreed to allow a question time for members of the public at future Council meetings. The motion was presented by Depute Leader Cllr Alasdair Christie and means that from December 2019, Highland Council meetings will include a time allocation for questions from members of the public.
Highland Councillors have unanimously agreed that the Council will support the continuation of the exemption from UK Air Passenger Duty for flights departing from airports in the Highlands & Islands; and Members also agreed that the Council will continue working with HiTRANS to present the case of the need for, and benefit arising from an exemption from the current UK Air Passenger Duty and any successor duty. The Council's stance comes this week as calls have been made by Aberdeen Airport for greater parity with Highlands & Islands.
Suicide prevention is a key priority for The Highland Council. Members have agreed today, to take forward a piece of research with partners including NHS Highland and Police Scotland, to better understand the current evidence base and experience of suicide in Highland.
The introduction of a service to support the mental health and wellbeing of Highland Council staff and councillors has been approved by the Council as part of a range of measures to improve wellbeing. An Employee Assistance Programme for staff and Members will be put in place to offer telephone and internet-based counselling 24 hours a day.
Councillor Mackie had a written question at today's meeting of Highland council. Item 12 - Question Time To the Chair of the Environment, Development & Infrastructure Committee "Official Highland Council guidance indicates that, unless extended, successful Community Asset Transfer requests should be completed by the Local Authority within a nine months' timeframe.
From highland council Meting today 27 June 2019. Item 12 - Question Time To the Chair of the Corporate Resources Committee "What are the current best estimates for present total Highland Council debt and the annual financial commitment required to service this debt?".
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