Highland Council prepares to make budget savings

Highland Council is preparing to make savings of between £47 million and £72 million over the next three years.

In its pre-budget report, it warned that it was facing a budget gap of £26 million next year.

The council said it will provide options for savings once the Scottish government settlement is revealed on 15 December.

In a statement, Highland Council said if the grant settlement again saw a cut of about four per cent, it would result in ‘real reductions in funding and the council will need to reduce or stop doing functions’.

A Redesign Board was set up earlier in the year to attempt to generate additional income and improve efficiencies.

Margaret Davidson, leader of the council, said: "This is really is the most worrying financial situation. Local government is undoubtedly shrinking and £10 million came out of our revenue budget in February 2016 and we expect to be 25 per cent smaller in three years' time.

"Our hands are very tied by the constrictions imposed by the Scottish government.

"This will mean that budget reductions will be much higher for services which are not ring-fenced or protected by Scottish government policy. Unprotected services could have to find 23 per cent savings."

She added: "The scenario which I find most unpalatable is that taxes raised locally in Highland may be taken from us to be spent elsewhere in Scotland.

"This would be the first time any government in Scotland has raised taxes locally and taken them away for national purposes and I will be bringing a motion to council to challenge this proposal."

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