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Caithness News Bulletins February 2004

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COUNCIL BUDGET RECOMMENDS 7.1% GROWTH 6 February 04

The Highland Council agreed at a special meeting on Thursday (5 February) to set a budget of 438.4 million for 2004-2005 - which includes budget growth of 29.7 million or 7.1 %.

The proposed budget should permit the Council to restrict an increase in the Council Tax to 50 at Band D when it meets again on Thursday 12 February to set the Council Tax for the new financial year. The current Band D is 989.

The Budget Working Group, which has met on a number of occasions to consider the Council's budgetary position, recommends a 12 million increase in the Education Culture and Sport Service (6.9%); Social Work, 2.8 million (4.1%); Transport Environmental and Community (TEC) Services, 2.3 million (4.7%); Police, 1.9 million (5.2%) and Fire, 1.35 million (13.3%).

The budget allows the Council to deal with pressures that have been identified in the provision of school transport, special educational needs, homelessness, children's placements outwith the Highlands as well as further implementing the McCrone agreement on teachers' pay and conditions, new access legislation and to continue to invest in roads maintenance and building maintenance.

Chairman of the Budget Working Group, Councillor Michael Foxley, who is Vice-Convener, said: "We faced really difficult choices in making recommendations to the Council. As councillors we are committed to improving services to the Highland community and we have tried in this budget to deal with both pressures of new legislation and requirements but also to improve the way we deliver services to the public. This budget will enable us to contain an increase in the Council Tax to 50 at Band D, which is what we indicated would be the case in our three-year budgeting plan."

Convener Councillor Alison Magee noted that there were pressures in the capital budget, which met the cost of infrastructure projects, such as road and bridge building, old people's services and education.. She said: "I am particularly pleased that one of the things we have been able to do in this budget is to take advantage of new regulations, which will allow us to increase the level of capital spending."