Work continues for Highland budget team

The Highland Council’s Budget team, Councillors Bill Fernie, Alister Mackinnon, Ben Thompson and Matthew Reiss, have been working with Council Leader Margaret Davidson over the Christmas and New year period to discuss the way forward for the 2016/17 budget in the context of an extremely challenging grant settlement from the Scottish Government.

Today (Wednesday 6 January)  the Budget Team met with the Council’s Chief Executive and Director of Finance to explore wide areas where potential savings could be made. They also talked about areas which they would like to protect from funding cuts. As part of the review all the administrative functions of the council and all managerial positions will have to be considered.

Chief Executive Steve Barron has made a commitment that senior management posts will be further reduced to save money in addition to reductions already made in the last four years.

There has been an encouraging response from the invitation to staff to apply for voluntary redundancy and at their meeting today the team noted that the packages available may become less attractive in the next financial year as the Government are planning to introduce a cap on such payments.

Budget Leader Councillor Bill Fernie said: “Over the next 12 months a thorough review of council services and structures will be undertaken to take account of the current financial position. Every post from Chief Executive downwards will be under review by the Independent Administration to ensure Highland Council services are redesigned to meet the expectations of Highland communities within the resources available to us.

 “We will shortly be continuing discussions with the whole Independent group, the opposition groups and the trade unions. One of the issues which will be discussed will be whether or not to increase the council tax. Faced with the fact that we need to save over £50m we need to examine all aspects of the budget.”

At a special meeting of The Highland Council on 21 January the responses from the recent Citizen Panel survey about the budget will be discussed and on 25th February the main budget setting meeting of the council will take place.

6 Jan 2016