Budget Leader welcomes outstanding response to consultation
A huge number of responses have been received as part of the phase two Budget Consultation. There were 4 key strands to this phase of the consultation including surveys of the Citizens’ Panel, the Highland Communities Panel, ten Focus Groups with hard to reach groups and an online survey as well as general comments which were received.
A total of 4601 people have completed the online survey. In addition to this, there were 193 responses from community groups including Parent Councils and Community Councils on the Communities Panel.
Members of the Citizens’ Panel submitted 1,270 response and this level of responses will provide good confidence for analysis.
There have also been three Petitions received, one in relation to the proposed grant reduction to Mallaig Swimming Pool and two on proposals relating to education.
Budget Leader Maxine Smith welcomed the response to the consultation. She said, “The number of responses has been outstanding and I am delighted that there has been such engagement with the consultation. We have been open and transparent about the difficult choices we have to make and we have done our very best to enable people to have their say and explain the impact the proposals would have on them. The level of responses demonstrates that we have achieved our aim to really engage the public in the very real challenges we face.”
She went on to say, “We are not alone in these challenges, but we, like other local authorities, have no choice other than to deliver a balanced budget.
“A detailed report on the consultation will be taken to the Highland Council meeting on 18 December.”
Resources Committee will next week consider the latest budget forecast for the current financial year, based on the half year position to 30th September 2014.
The Council is pleased to note a forecast underspend of just under £0.5m. In the short term this represents savings that the Council is delivering ahead of timescale to prepare for the significant budget reductions required from 2015/16 onwards. Principally, this has been achieved through holding posts vacant and treasury management savings, as a result of delays in capital expenditure and low interest rates. These however are temporary measures that are not sustainable in the longer term.
The Committee will however hear of ongoing pressures, particularly within Care & Learning, where School Transport, School Catering, Looked After Children, and Waste Management all forecast significant overspends.
Maxine Smith added, “Whilst the Council is able to manage these pressures within its overall budget by taking one-off savings measures, the future remains challenging, with the need for all services to manage demand within a reducing level of resource.”