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Budget black hole at Highland Council is now put at £35.7 million, after it takes hit from Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown


By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council news.
Highland Council news.

HIGHLAND Council’s budget black hole now stands at £35.7 million – almost three times less than previously feared, it was revealed yesterday.

The new estimate of a £47.7 million gap has been sent to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, but this will be reduced by almost £12 million, which is coming from the government.

Local authority bosses previously thought its deficit could have been as high as £96.9 million.

Council head of corporate finance, Edward Foster, said reducing the budget gap “now appears to be more manageable” but “a hugely significant level of risk still remains” for the council.

The deficit includes more than £18.1 million in lost income from school meals, ferries and letting, as well as garden waste, harbour dues, car parking and marine fuel sales.

Re-establishing council services will cost £15.5 million, mostly through the cost of reopening schools which includes PPE, cleaning and additional staffing. This also includes potentially giving High Life Highland £3 million to help offset its lost income.

Some £10.6 million was spent on the Covid-19 response on providing childcare and emergency housing and there is £6.6 million of planned budget cuts that might not go ahead.

Savings of £3.3 million have also been made from reduced expenses on a range of costs, including travel and utilities.

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