Budget 2018 to 2019
The Revenue Budget for 2018-19 was agreed at Council on 15 February 2018.
The Administration prioritised education, roads and winter maintenance, protecting these areas from savings cuts. Impact assessments were carried out for all proposals to ensure savings chosen had the least possible impact on service users.
Overall, the budget gap of £15.146 million has been met by a package of savings which includes increasing Council Tax income by £3.448 million, increasing income by £3.059 million, reducing expenditure by making savings of £5.1 million, and setting a target of £2.250 million to be saved through Redesign. Read the budget papers.
Council Tax will increase by 3% in 2018-19 which will mean an increase of £35.93 per annum on a Band D property. Find out more about Council Tax with our fact sheets. Help is available to reduce your council tax if you are on a low income.
To avoid making cuts to some services, the Council agreed to increase income by charging more for some services or fees, or charging for things which previously were free, such as parking and garden waste charges.
Fees and charges for waste services will increase as follows: Commercial refuse collection and 3rd party trade waste (3%). Domestic bulky uplifts, wheelie bin sales and landfill site charges (10%). Garden waste (brown bins) £5 increase. A charge for waste collection from 120 community managed or owned facilities, such as village halls will be introduced.
A minimum fee of £1 for 1st period of parking will be introduced at all locations and there will be an uplift of all Parking Permits Fees by 5%. Parking charges will be introduced in 11 council car parks over the coming year - Broadford North & Village, Chanonry Point, Mallaig East Bay & West Bay, Nairn Library and Harbour, Alness Station, Dingwall Southside, Ullapool Latheron, Kyle Village.
Increased fees and charges for services including: Environmental Health services (10%); additional early learning and out of school childcare (10%); planning (10%) pest control (10%) inflationary increases for Burials and Cremations (3.9%); and ferry dues, harbour services and berthing fees (3.9%) and rents (2%)
The Council operates 96 public conveniences and 28 comfort schemes across the Highlands. A charge of 50p will be introduced at a further 10 of these sites and a widening of the comfort scheme.
The recent installation of additional biomass boilers to our public buildings will allow us to apply to OFGEM to receive additional renewable heat incentive (RHI) income for each new boiler we have installed. Read the report proposing this.
The Council will seek to increase advertising income from its assets such as roundabouts and lamppost banners. Find out more about how to advertise your business.
There is also a plan to set up a new MOT test centre for Council vehicles and taxis.
There will be a continued reduction in management posts across the Council and streamlining of services and administration costs where possible, such as out of hours call handling. We have also reduced our travel and subsistence costs, training budgets and insurance premiums.
Ward discretionary budgets have been halved, still allowing money for local initiatives and Community Council grants have been cut by around 50%. A number of Community Councils have access to other sources of income and some also have significant reserves. Funding has been reduced for Christmas lights.
The Council has 435 play areas and rationalising the number and maintenance of these will save over £200,000. There will be opportunities for communities to have an increased role in managing these.
There will be a reduction in funding to other organisations such as Eden Court (40%), Third Sector grants (40%) Caithness Horizons (16%) Blas, Blindcraft and Women’s Aid (10%), as well as a reduction in some childcare provision costs.
Savings will be made to flood risk work and flood alleviation. Any works identified through watercourse inspections will need to be funded through Area Roads budgets, or if significant, through the capital programme.
Savings will also be made through external contracts and consultancy costs, external fees and advertising costs; venue hire; effective use of ICT and bringing some costs in-house, such as surveys.
The Council will also review its property assets to identify opportunities for further savings.
Around 50 posts have been deleted to help make the savings, without the need for redundancies. This is around 0.5% of the total staff numbers. Many of these posts are vacant posts which have been deleted and redeployment is possible for others.
The Council’s Redesign Programme aims to make improvements and find efficiencies by finding different or better ways of doing things. Thousands of pounds have already been saved in redesigning some services.
Savings proposals for public conveniences (toilets), were agreed at Council on 15 February 2018. The following actions were agreed:
- Review of current provision, including some rationalisation of 29 existing facilities in consultation with Members at Ward Business Meetings. Savings £0.338m
- Introducing a charge of 50p per visit at 10 high use facilities
- Increasing charges at existing payable facilities to 50p – Savings £0.336M
- Reviewing the payment structure for premises operating the Highland Comfort Scheme, and reducing the highest level of payment from £500 per month to £300 per month – Savings £0.030
- Some sites will not re-open where agreement has already been reached - thus far these are: A9 Kessock south-bound, Dunnet Bay, and Dornoch Beach
- Where no agreement reached yet, seasonal sites are re-opening from April
- If no other option can be found for the 29 existing seasonal facilities listed, then those toilets will close on 31 August 2018
- Charging of 50p being implemented at sites from 1 April 2018 where we are already charging (signs are currently up informing people of increase in charge)
- Sub-contractors will begin installing charging units, with work to be completed by end of May 2018
4 sites are already identified - Smoo, Elgol, Poolewe and Aultbea
Highland Comfort Schemes
- Letters have been sent to all current providers detailing review of payment structure and new two year agreement being issued
- After the deadline for response of 31 March, the opportunity will be advertised to others.