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.
The Highland Council's Environmental Health Team is advising users of private water supplies to take preventative steps to preserve their drinking water. Following a mild Winter and Spring, there is increasing pressures on water supplies.
There will be minimal impact on PSA posts due to extensive work done to protect staff through the holding back over 50 vacant posts and identifying other opportunities within the council. We have committed to avoiding compulsory redundancies.
The Highland Council, in partnership with Under One Roof Scotland, are inviting all private landlords to a special seminar specifically to look at issues surrounding common repairs and building maintenance in flats and how to deal with any problems that may arise. Under One Roof Scotland www.underoneroof.scot is an impartial online information site for flat owners and their advisers.
A greatly improved financial position is to be reported to the council's Corporate Resources Committee meeting next week for the financial year 2018/19. The position reflects the overspend reducing by £3M due to management actions in recent months.
Already leading the way when it comes to providing nutritional school meals, The Highland Council has reaffirmed its commitment to put more local fresh seasonal food on school dinner plates. Catherine Pendreigh, Food for Life Partnerships Manager at the Soil Association gave a presentation at today's Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee on the accreditation already awarded to Highland Council's school meals and how this could be further developed in the future.
Members of The Highland Council's Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee have welcomed new funding to stimulate economic investments in Highland town centres to help them diversify and flourish. In partnership with COSLA The Scottish Government have provided £50m capital to set up the Town Centre Fund 2019-2020.
The Highland Council is warning anyone considering buying a puppy to ensure they buy from reputable sources. Concerns have been raised that people are illegally importing dogs from Europe to sell without the correct health checks or paperwork.
Parking Enforcement is coming to a street near you. With the Decriminalisation of Parking Enforcement, and establishment of the Highland Council Parking Services in 2016, the local authority has committed to the roll-out of enforcement activities across all population centres in Highland.
Progress in the transformation of Inverness Castle to become a new visitor attraction for the city was marked today with the announcement of contracts awarded to the architect and the creative director for the project. The Inverness Castle project forms part of the Inverness and Highland City-Region deal.
Ross and Cromarty Councillors are to liaise with Community councils and local community groups wishing to provide festive Christmas lighting and decorations. It follows a new uniform policy that has come into place in order for the Highland Council to recover the costs associated with providing festive lighting and decoration assistance to communities.
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