Budget discussions continue in the lead up to Highland Council’s budget meeting on 25 February

Budget discussions between the Council’s Administration and Political Groups and Unions are continuing in the lead up to The Highland Council’s budget meeting on 25 February.

The Council held a special meeting on 21 January to consider the results of the budget consultation and the full range of savings proposals are being discussed prior to the finalisation of the Council’s papers next week.

The funding package from the Scottish Government represents a £18.334 million reduction on 2015/16 which equates to a 4% cut in external funding. This leaves a budget gap of £48.151 million. Taking into account the savings which were agreed by Council in December 2014, the remaining budget gap of £37.9 million must be found by savings across all services.

Proposals for £37.9 million savings will be presented to Council for decision on 25 February. These will include a range of services which the Council can no longer provide within the funding available.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson said: “Any consideration of a council tax rise has now been ruled out due to rigid sanctions which would be imposed on the Council by the Scottish Government. However, this now means that all the savings must come from cuts to staff and services. The gap is so severe, it will require a substantial reduction in staff and radical cuts removing entire parts of some of the services the council currently provides. There will be many things we simply can no longer do!

“We have been discussing this difficult task with Union leaders and our political colleagues, and whilst no one wants to see cuts of this scale, everyone recognises that we have nowhere left to go and many of the choices we may have had, are taken away from us.

“Voluntary severance will save several millions and see hundreds of experienced and knowledgeable staff leave the council. Proposals to bridge the remaining gap will impact on every part of the service and will be felt across all our communities in the Highlands. The Highland Council, as we know it, will look and feel very different in the course of the next few months and everyone may need to adjust their expectations of the council accordingly.”

11 Feb 2016
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