Highland councillors agree Council Tax rise as part of 2018-19 budget

Margaret Davidson

The Highland Council has agreed a 3% rise in Council Tax as the local authority attempts to meet a budget gap of £15 million for 2018-19.

The overall package of savings includes increasing Council Tax income by £3.448m, increasing income by £3.059m, setting a target of £2.25m to be saved through Redesign and reducing expenditure by £5.1m.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “This is a fair budget which protects jobs, education, roads and winter maintenance and communities across the Highlands. We have thankfully not had to cut as deeply as we had originally feared this year, but there has still been a significant challenge in making savings which had the least impact on services.

“I would hope that we can move to multiple year budget setting in the future, however the current one-year budget setting policy by the Scottish Government presents local authorities with very real challenges in being unable to plan effectively over a long term.

“I would like to thank colleagues across the chamber for reaching agreement over many difficult decisions. I also want to thank the Unions for their commitment to the process and to Officers for their hard work in identifying options for savings and the information required for decisions to be made.

“Reflecting on our budget process, we intend to develop a more inclusive process moving forward. We know that we will continue to face increasing pressures in the coming years with uncertainty over future levels of grant funding. We have worked very successfully across the chamber on redesign work and I would like to see us being able to do the same on agreeing allocation of budgets in future years.”

Budget leader Councillor Alister Mackinnon said: “This budget is a positive response to our current financial circumstances. Over the past few months, we have had to consider a wide range of options to make very significant cuts to services which we didn’t want to do, but thought may be unavoidable and I recognise the negative effect this uncertainty has caused for staff and communities.

“A better settlement at the 11th hour has saved us from having to cut so deeply and we have done our very best to protect frontline services and safeguard jobs.

“Around 50 posts will go, however we are confident that we can manage these through redeployment, vacancy control and longer term workforce planning to avoid any redundancies where possible.

“We will continue to lobby the Scottish Government for multi-year grant settlements to enable long term financial planning for councils.”

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