Home   News   Article

COUNCIL LEADER: We looked to keep council tax increase as low as possible because we recognise pressures on Highland household budgets

By Contributor

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Councillors Bill Lobban, Raymond Bremner and Derek Louden during a council budget briefing. Picture: James Mackenzie
Councillors Bill Lobban, Raymond Bremner and Derek Louden during a council budget briefing. Picture: James Mackenzie

The council is facing unprecedented pressure on its budget and, for the first time, we have used a considerable proportion of our reserves to reduce the immense level of savings required this coming year so that we could protect jobs and services as far as we possibly could.

We looked at removing duplication, over-provision and getting the balance right between providers while still working on effective partnership provision. We have also tried to be fair at the same time as we have tried to ensure that service provision and payment is required to be engaged by the council and affordable to the council.

Many of the savings that we have looked at have not been easy hence the evaluation of risk in respect of being able to deliver the savings and our commitment to a budget review by the senior leadership group on a monthly basis as well as a mid-year review in September. We also looked to keep the increase in council tax as low as possible because we recognise the pressures on Highland household budgets.

We understand the cost-of-living crisis is affecting everyone and I know that the impact of the agreed savings and removal of funding will of course be of concern to some organisations. These difficult decisions were not taken lightly but we have tried to be as fair and equitable as possible in the decision-making process.

There is a genuine commitment from the council and by many local members, to assist these organisations with identifying alternative funding sources.

Highland Council has written again to the groups and organisations affected.

The letter provides a list which illustrates some of the other council funding streams which organisations can bid into, as well as some resources relating to other external funding streams. If more opportunities arise, we’ll make sure that these will be shared also.

To assist with identifying and applying to other council funding streams, the council will be hosting some online ‘drop-in’ sessions where council officers, who support and administer these funds, will attend and provide information and advice. Details of the sessions will be circulated next week.

During our consultation when putting the administration’s programme for council together, our communities told us they wanted their roads fixed. This was a key focus of our budget. We had to look at trying to close a gap of almost £50 million as well as facing the challenge of finding funding for our roads. Knowing that there have been underspends in delivering previous roads funding commitment, I wanted us to ensure that we would deliver those outstanding programmes as well as deliver any increased investment going forward.

Given the fact that we don’t know what the financial position for the immediate future will be, it would be difficult to commit to further increases until we get a better picture of the council’s financial future. In realising an increase of over £14 million for roads, we will make sure that nearly all of the capital spend will be used for putting actual tar on the roads and that bigger allocations will go to the places that need it most.

The work of finding increased amounts for roads investment continues and the ongoing budget review that we have committed to will make sure that all of the funding will be spent within the budget year.

There are a number of other key areas of investment including making the council more contactable, keeping our Highland children in the Highlands and investment in our waste collection services.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More