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2,300 people join Highland Citizens' Panel

Issued: 10 Jun 2010

A total of 2,300 householders have signed up for the new Citizens' Panel established by The Highland Council to gauge satisfaction with Council services. A performance survey will this week be posted or emailed to panel members seeking their views on a wide range of council services, including contact with the council; satisfaction with services; community life; and how the council can save money given the challenging economic environment and reductions in public funding. The deadline for responses is 30 June.

The Council has formed the Citizens' Panel as a new way of consulting with the public on its performance and is using panel members as a sounding board for options for identifying the major savings needed in the coming few years.

At the same time, the Council is holding a series of public meetings to highlight the financial challenges facing the Council and seeking comments on the budget blog on its web site: www.highland.gov.uk.

The Council is consulting over options that have been proposed by Services to identify budget savings of £36 million over the next three years. These options are set out in two budget documents which can be accessed via the home page of our web site: www.highland.gov.uk.

Week five of the Council Budget blog focuses on how individuals and communities can contribute to the savings' targets.

Budget Leader Councillor David Alston asks:

  • What more could individuals and communities do for themselves?
  • Should we rely more on not-for-profit organisations and which types of services should the Council be using not-for-profit organisations for?

He said: "There is a long history of communities owning and managing community assets in the Highlands, e.g. community forests, community swimming pools, village halls and harbours. We benefit from high levels of volunteering; 29% of our adult population volunteer in some way and over half do so in more than one activity and more than once a week. Is there an appetite for communities and individuals to do more?

"For example, we spend £3.9 million on street cleaning and litter collection. We also spend £4.3 million on grounds maintenance, flower beds and play areas. Could community involvement help to reduce these costs by £1 million? What else can we do to be less tolerant of people dropping litter? Should we fine more people and ask the Scottish Government to make fines higher? "

Councillor Alston said the Council currently spends £26 million each year to support community groups, social enterprise and charities.

He added: "They provide a huge range of public services, drawing on volunteer time and accessing funding from other sources. Examples include recycling projects, housing associations, care and support providers, community transport, sports clubs, lunch clubs, children's clubs, tourism groups, biodiversity groups, arts and culture groups, festivals and museums. Where these organisations can provide services more efficiently and effectively than the Council, should we route more services through community groups or community businesses? If you think so, which areas should we focus on and what support would be needed?"

The blog will continue to look at different aspects of the Council's spending every week until it closes at the end of this month.

Other ward forums to discuss the budget are scheduled as follows:

  • 14 June: Skye Ward Forum - Portree
  • 16 June: Dingwall and Seaforth Ward Forum - British Legion Club, Dingwall
  • 17 June: Cromarty Firth Ward Forum - Ardross Hall
  • 18 June: Highland Youth Voice - Sabhal Mor Ostaig, Sleat, Skye
  • 21 June: Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh Ward Forum - Lochcarron
  • 22 June: Inverness City Ward Forum - Town House, Inverness
  • 23 June: Badenoch and Strathspey Ward Forum - Boat of Garten Hall
  • 30 June: Nairn Ward Forum - Rosebank Primary, Nairn
© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme