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Highland Council budget includes potential job losses, adult social care cuts, and Council Tax details

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council budget. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Highland Council budget. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Highland Council’s SNP-Independent administration has confirmed its proposed budget for 2024/25 with £602.5 million to deliver the region’s vital services amid the “unprecedented financial challenge” facing the local authority.

Each year the council sets two budgets – the revenue budget which is the cash to run services and the capital budget that invests in infrastructure and was decided in September.

The council’s primary challenge is to set a balanced revenue budget which means closing an immediate £65 million gap for this financial year – and a £113 million budget shortfall over the next three years.

The most significant cuts include a £12 million reduction in funding for adult social care over three years with £7 million from this year alone; reducing staff, mostly in middle and upper management.

Fees and charges will also be hiked – including for garden waste which go up by 2.5 per cent, business waste by 4.6 per cent and minimum parking fees will increase from £2 to £3.

One enormous area that lacks clarity is road investment. There does not appear to be any additional funding for repairs and maintenance, so just £8 million would be available for the entire region as allocated in September’s capital programme.

But the local authority appears to have accepted the Scottish Government’s wish to freeze Council Tax at the current rates while First Minister Humza Yousaf true to his word and reduced ring-fencing funding from Holyrood.

The council said that the budget was “built upon the extensive process of budget engagement undertaken by the council, and taking on board the significant and welcome feedback from our communities, our staff and elected members.”

It continues: “The budget savings proposed are within the following four themes: developing our operating model; looking at our asset base; being more efficient; generating income.”


There will be a one per cent efficient target aimed at saving £3.2 million across all council budgets except those that have their own savings or are exempt so it will not impact education budgets related to teacher numbers.

Those other budget savings include High life Highland – it made savings of £2.7 million; and the Coastal Communities Fund and Ward Discretionary Budgets will be cut by 10 per cent equating to either £334,000 or £336,000.

But the single biggest cut appears to have fallen on adult social care which amounts to £7 million this coming financial year – a further £5 million will come out over two subsequent years.

The social care sector is already under enormous pressure so there will be concern about what this looks like at the service level but there is no detail on that in the budget papers.

Brian Porter, the council’s head of corporate finance states: “The budget proposals include savings relating to the funding the council provides for adult social care” that are “in recognition of the affordability challenge.”


Taking just some of the most prominent changes to full time equivalent (FTE) posts at the council – there are well over 130 positions affected. But the emphasis was placed on redeployment and vacancy management – not hiring or replacing staff.

The one per cent saving target applied to all services would impact jobs with “a notional 81 FTE impact” where the council will “endeavour to reduce this through vacancy management and redeployment” and “where at all possible, compulsory redundancy will be avoided.”

There will also be a corporate management team restructure because “in line with the savings being made by all services, it is anticipated that a proportionate reduction will be made to the senior team” – taking it down from seven to four.

A further 19 staff will be affected by reforming the strategic operating model to tackle a “significant variation in how services are managed” across the region to improve “consistency of oversight due to structural complexity.”

All it says about their futures is that “affected staff would be managed under council policies” but that most likely refers to redeployment and to vacancy management.

Mr Porter said: “Where there is a quantifiable staffing impact, expressed in FTE (full time equivalent terms), this is shown. This is intended to represent a net reduction in FTE staffing which may arise from the saving.

“This may typically be managed through existing council processes such as vacancy management, staff turnover, redeployment. The council operates a 'non redundancy' policy where possible.”

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