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Highland Council is openly talking about redundancies 'without adequate funding'

By Scott Maclennan

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Council leader Raymond Bremner warns of unprecedented cuts.
Council leader Raymond Bremner warns of unprecedented cuts.

Highland Council is now openly talking about the possibility of redundancies due to service cuts as it notes the same position that was revealed at last month’s full meeting of the local authority.

The update delivered yesterday had been touted by some members as a more complete set of proposals but proved to be the dampest of squibs as the only item for agreement was a budget engagement timetable.

Council leader Raymond Bremner said: “We anticipate we will have an unprecedented budget gap next year of around £60-70 million, and a shortfall of around £100 million over the next three years has been forecast.

“Without adequate funding, we will have a choice of making service reductions or increasing income or a mixture of both. Service reductions would also mean job losses and that is something we are doing everything possible to avoid, as this would be disastrous for communities and our economy in the Highlands.”

Inverness Ness-side member Andrew MacKintosh described the budget as a “dog’s breakfast” arguing there was “too much time patting each other on the back and handing out jobs to one another and perhaps not enough time looking at real problems”.

He added: “I am also concerned that we are revisiting the budget from last year. Was the administration aware of the perilous state of our finances? If they weren’t, then why not? That is your job.

“The budget in March was effectively a false budget, built on a false premise, unless you were telling me that officials kept this a secret, which I don’t think they did, unless you are telling me you are totally incompetent – I think the administration has let us down on that.”

He added: “Perhaps we should all work together more, or perhaps behave more like Scottish Labour party members and criticise ourselves more – a lot less time handing out medals and a lot more scrutiny.”

The council said there is still considerable uncertainty until the end of December around what the grant will be from the Scottish Government for 2024-25, and the funding to implement a council tax freeze.

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