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Budget Blog closes with discussion on pay

Issued: 24 Jun 2010

In the final week of its Budget Blog, The Highland Council is asking the public if the Council is right to want a pay freeze for staff, which could realise savings of £9.9 million over two years.

Budget Leader Councillor David Alston said that budgets for all Council services have already been frozen, except for the provision made for costs of staff and energy.

He said: "Salaries and wages are negotiated at Scottish level and we have made it clear that we want to see a pay freeze for at least one year. This would avoid £4.9 million of extra costs each year, and £9.9m if the pay freeze was extended to two years. A pay freeze in times of inflation would in real terms be a cut."

The Council is also reviewing its capital investment and Councillor Alston is asking the public what it should consider when doing this.

Councillor Alston added: "Capital spending pays for new and improved facilities including schools, care homes, roads and bridges, flood prevention schemes, as well as supporting the local economy. In 2009/10 the Council is spending £69m on capital projects. Just like having a mortgage, the Council borrows to pay for this capital investment over a number of years. The cost of repaying the Council's borrowing, essentially its mortgage repayments, adds to the Council's costs. The Council's fixed general fund assets are valued at approximately £1 billion. By spending less on capital we can reduce the amount we need to pay back. If we reduced our capital programme by £10m in a single year, that could reduce borrowing costs by up to £800,000 per year in subsequent years.

"Alternatively, should we allocate a higher proportion of our capital budget to projects which would reduce operating costs? Schemes to improve energy performance of properties, to change to renewable sources of energy and to reduce waste will help to reduce costs but will divert capital funds from new build programmes."

Since the blog was introduced on 10 May, a total of 6,424 people have viewed the blog pages. 300 people have signed up to take part in the discussion and 224 comments have been posted.

Blog comments together with letters and petitions received during the budget consultation and the comments made at ward forums, will be collated and considered by Councillors as part of the budget setting process in the Autumn.

Councillor Alston said: "I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time and trouble to take part in this very important consultation. The blog has been a most worthwhile exercise and we will certainly repeat this in future consultations"

The blog is one of a number of ways 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: http://www.highland.gov.uk The blog closes at the end of this month

At the same time, the Council has held a series of 13 public meetings and other briefings with business and youth groups to highlight the financial challenges facing the Council.

The final budget consultation meeting is being held at Rosebank Primary School, Nairn, on Wednesday 30 June, starting at 7 pm.

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund) within the INTERREG IIIB Northern Periphery Programme