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Council funding cuts are worse than feared

By Scott Maclennan

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The Scottish Government cuts to core Highland Council funding are “much greater” than previously feared according to budget leader Alister Mackinnon.

The grant allocation arrived last Monday evening but the full implications will not be known until early in the New Year when it is expected to be revealed on January 7.

That could force the council into a series of highly unpopular measures including raising council tax which is what the government suggested to plug any funding gap.

Prior to its release Derek Yule, depute chief executive and director of corporate resources, said the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) warned of cuts up to two per cent cut.

He said: “From the financial planning point of view, the key year on year is the funding for our core services the additional money that Derek Mackay announced last week is going for the early years initiative and adult care – that has been the two major elements of that.

“But for us to deliver that incurs additional expenditure and that additional money doesn’t go to fund what we already do, it goes to the new things.

“And it is the funding reduction for the core services that I think that will give us the biggest budget challenge going forward but I guess it just waiting to see what the actual figure is for the council then we will analyse that.

He added: “I do always recognise that there is usually is a political spin put on that by whatever government, or whatever persuasion, and whether it is UK, Scottish or local to be honest.”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay claimed despite a £2 billion reduction in real terms to Scotland’s block grant over the last decade councils have received “a fair funding settlement.”

“If local authorities choose to use their powers to increase council tax by up to three per cent they can generate up to an additional £80 million to support the delivery of essential local services.”

The Highlands’ just over £500million settlement would be augmented by a 3.77 per cent rise in council tax bringing in £3.7 million.

Budget Leader Alister Mackinnon said it would take time to work through the proposed settlement and do a detailed analysis.

He said: “The cut to our core budget to fund existing services is much greater that we had feared. We will not know an accurate position until early in the New Year, but we will certainly be facing an extremely challenging situation.”

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