Budget Leader announces savings proposals to be taken to Highland Council
The Administration Group of Highland Council have announced a range of proposals to be taken forward in a report to the Highland Council at its meeting on 18 December.
The Council needs to identify savings totalling £64 million over the next 4 years to achieve a balanced budget. This figure has been further reduced by £9 million following a detailed review of budget assumptions. Savings of some £42 million have been identified through modernisation and efficiencies, as well as a reduction in some services. This also includes an increase in income through fees and charges. A consultation was held on a range of the savings which would have the most direct impact on the public.
The Administration Group have considered the savings proposals and identified which proposals are to be taken to a full meeting of the Council for decision. This, however, still leaves a budget gap of £13 million to be found in years 2, 3 and 4 (2016-19).
Given the feedback received, the following proposals will not be progressed for the 2015/16 budget :
Additional reductions in funding to High Life Highland and Inverness Leisure over and above a reduction of 4% in 2015/16 and 1% in each of the following three years (saving £0.9m)
Further proposed reductions, on top of the 3% per annum reduction, or removal of the Ward Discretionary Budget (saving up to £1.032m)
Primary Education – Changing time spent in class (saving up to £3.2m)
Time is required to fully assess the comments received, assess the implications of these proposals, and hold further consultations at a local and national level.
Budget Leader, Maxine Smith said: “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 proposed cuts would have on them. We are not alone in these challenges, but we, like other local authorities, have no choice other than to deliver a balanced budget. It is impossible to find £64 million in savings without having any impact on services and on people. However unpleasant, we have no choice but to decide where to make the necessary cuts to balance the budget.
“The biggest share of the Council budget is spent on Care and Learning and where we can mitigate the impact on education, we will do so. Having listened to the concerns of the public regarding proposals to reduce the primary school week, the Administration group decided to remove the proposal from year 1 (2015/16), to allow further work on the detail and to minimise any impact on schools.
“We will also seek to delay any cuts to services such as swimming pools and libraries and community grants, so that more time can be allowed for them to plan and prepare for future leaner years.”
She stressed that where cuts cannot be made, the savings must be found elsewhere. “This means we still have a big gap of nearly £13 million in our 4 year budget and we must identify where that money is going to come from. The future remains challenging, with the need for all services to manage demand within a reducing level of resource.”
A report will be taken to the Full Council for decisions on 18th December and this will be available on our website on Friday 12 December.