Budget to be brought on track for year end balance
Despite an increase in the reported in-year overspend of £5.5M at the end of the third quarter, the Council is committed to bringing the budget back on track to be in a balanced position by year end.
Additional measures to address the projected overspend began back in November, with vacancy controls, restricting non-essential expenditure, stopping non-essential travel and utilising (previously) earmarked balances. Agency and overtime spending has also been significantly restricted.
The challenging position is largely attributable to a review of the expected costs of looked after children and an overspend on the budget for additional support needs. Whilst the Council has been successful in bringing some children back to the Highlands, unfortunately other children have had to be placed out with the area in expensive placements, thereby offsetting the planned reduction in costs.
Work continues to close the budget gap by the year end and a review of earmarked reserves will take place to see if any funding previously set aside can now be released for general use.
Budget Leader and Chair of Resources, Alister Mackinnon said:
“I am confident that the correct measures are in place to bring the budget back into line. Some of the measures have been very difficult for some areas and I appreciate the efforts by many staff to improve our position. We simply cannot afford to weaken our Reserves, so it is imperative that we continue with these restrictions for several more weeks and we need the commitment from everyone across the Council to achieve a balanced position.”
Chief Executive Donna Manson added:
“The Corporate Plan will be coming to council next week and this will focus on scrutiny and driving performance. This and our Programme of Change will underpin the work of the council moving forward, ensuring that we use all our resources to the best effect to ensure we are an efficient, responsible and sustainable organisation.”