Highland Council budget

A confidential budget briefing was held yesterday (7 December) as part of a number of confidential internal briefings to members and staff on budget proposals.

The following statement was issued today following a media enquiry after a confidential paper was disappointingly leaked to the media.

Budget Leader, Cllr Bill Fernie said:

“The Highland Council is facing the one of the most difficult financial situations it has ever faced with an anticipated budget gap of potentially around £26 million next year. This follows years of real terms reduction in funding from the Scottish Government and the cumulative impact of this is significant. Faced with such dire circumstances, it is our duty as elected members to deliver a balanced budget and to make difficult and pragmatic decisions.

“Since 2010/11 the Council has made savings of £135m, with £39m in this year alone. If our funding is cut again by an expected further 4% (£17.6m), the Council will need to reduce or stop providing some services and functions. Our choices are very much restricted by Scottish Government policies.

“The degree of uncertainty over local government grant funding is unprecedented. There will be a very short timescale to react to the Scottish Government’s Grant Announcement on 15 December  and provide options for budget savings. Just under 80% of our external funding comes directly from the Scottish Government and it is important that the Council is making appropriate plans in advance of formal notification of our grant settlement.

“The Budget team is looking at a range of proposals to make savings and increase income and the Administration will be continuing to work together across the chamber to seek consensus on the way forward in what is the most severe financial situation the Council has ever faced. Although no formal decisions will be taken before February 2017, so far some £16million potential savings have been identified and another £10 million require to be found depending on the Scottish Government settlement. Cuts on this scale can simply not be made without significant reductions to some services.”

Leader of the Council, Margaret Davidson said: “Out of courtesy, Trade Unions were briefed yesterday as part of confidential internal briefings to members and staff over the next few days. It is extremely disappointing that this confidential briefing was leaked to the media before staff were informed on the proposals.”

She added: “The Administration of the Council has put the following  motion to Council:

“The Highland Council notes the UK Government’s Autumn Statement published on 23 November 2016 which shows a small increase in the overall resources coming to Scotland, both in cash and real terms.

“In view of this, the Highland Council urges the Scottish Government not to impose further damaging cuts to local government funding but provide a cash flat settlement which will help the Council to avoid making significant and painful cuts to front line public services that deliver important lifeline services to our communities in the Highland."

8 Dec 2016
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