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Highland Council urges public to have their say when new budget consultation begins in January; it comes after Accounts Commission underlined the 'challenge ahead' for councils when setting their next budgets

By Staff Reporter

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Highland Council news.
Highland Council news.

CHALLENGES faced by Highland Council when it sets its next budget make it vital that the public air their views, the local authority has said.

It made the comments after a new Accounts Commission report underlined the challenge ahead for setting the Highland Council budget.

The Chairman of the Accounts Commission, Graham Sharp, this week said: “There’s a need for councils to continue rethinking how they deliver services, as well as look at ways to increase their income. For some councils in Scotland, finding ways to do this is getting more and more difficult as their current income doesn’t match demand.”

The commission added that over the past six years as “…demand for services continues to grow, funding for councils from the Scottish Government has reduced by 7.6 per cent and is forecast to reduce further.”

And the council said the publication of the commission’s report reinforced the "urgent need" for local taxpayers to engage in the council’s budget consultation process when it begins in January.

Budget Leader and Chairman of the Corporate Resources Committee, Cllr Alister Mackinnon said: “The report by the Accounts Commission clearly sets the context within which we will have to set the Council’s budget with declining resources.

“Highland Council’s budget engagement will focus on efficiency, building reserves, increasing income and restructuring to enable a more flexible workforce, which will strengthen local economy and protects jobs.”

He added: “It’s vital that people in Highland take part when they have the chance, in the council’s budget engagement processes in January. It will only be with local information, choices and preferences expressed that Councillors will be able to make the very difficult budget setting decisions that we face ahead of us to set next year’s budget.”

While the Accounts Commission’s warned that “council budgets [are] straining to keep pace with demand” the council argued it also recognised the investment that Highland is making in housing; and transparency in financial management reporting.

The report states: “Investment has led to an increase in the number of council houses. We are now seeing the effect of housing investment and the end of the right-to-buy scheme leading to an increase in social housing stock. Highland (among other councils) have also increased their housing stock, each by more than 100 homes.”

Highland Council will launch its budget engagement in the New Year and urges people to have their say.

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