Council budget blog asks - can some services be provided less often?
People in the Highlands are being invited - on a new blog – to have their say on how the Council should meet its savings target of £63.7m over the next 4 years.
On Monday (9 June), The Highland Council will launch its 2014 budget blog on the home page of its website: http://www.highland.gov.uk/. The Budget Blog is another way in which people are able to let the Council know how they would to see savings being made.
Budget Consultation Forums have been taking place across Highland over the last two weeks and the blog provides an opportunity for those who could not attend forums to have their say. People who have attended their local forum are also encouraged to make further comments.
The blog will ask two sets of questions each week to encourage discussion about how we provide our services and if there are ways we can generate income and prevent future costs.
The first topic is: “Can we provide some services less, some less frequently or stop providing some altogether?” It will ask about how we can provide services more efficiently, which might result in a reduction in some services.
One suggestion will consider if the Council should merge some schools that are close together or have old buildings. It looks for suggestions of what factors the Council should consider when deciding which schools to merge.
It also asks if we could shorten the school day by 30 minutes for Primary 4-7 pupils which could save over £3m. Shortening the school day would result in savings as additional staff will not need to be hired to cover 2.5 hours a week not currently included in teachers contracts.
The blog also asks for opinions on other suggestions, such as a reduction in street lighting or the frequency of bin collections. It could also mean reducing the grants we give to organisations or to High Life Highland, which could result in the reduction or closure of some services they provide.
The blog will open for comments on Monday 9 June and the Council’s Budget Leader Councillor Maxine Smith, will lead the discussion. The aim of the consultation is to understand the public’s priorities as the Council aims to make savings of £63.7m over the next 4 years.
Councillor Smith said: “I hope people will get involved with the blog, and offer their views and comments on our suggestions. This is a great opportunity to engage and have your voice heard, especially if you were unable to attend your local Budget Forum.
“The first topic about reducing services is an important topic and will affect people in all areas, across all age groups. This is a chance for you to let us know your priorities and I look forward to engaging with you in this discussion.”
The next few topics will consider what the Council could do to generate more income, how we should provide our services, including working more with voluntary groups and public sector partners, and how we can organise our customer service provision (Service Points).