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Caithness News Bulletins February 2006

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Highland Council      
6 February 06
Highland Councillors will be asked to approve a rise of 49 at Band D, a 4.5 % increase, when it meets on Thursday (9 February) to set the Council Tax for 2006-2007.

In setting a budget of 488 million, the Council is asked to agree the following charges in 2006-2007: -
A 756.67; B 882.78; C 1,008.89; D 1,135; E 1,387.22; F 1,639.44; G 1,891.67 H 2,270.

The Council is also being asked to confirm that an increase in council house rent in the new financial year should be contained to the Retail Price Index plus 1 % i.e. 3.4%. The average rent increase in 2006-2007 will be 1.86 per week, increasing the current weekly average rent to 55.64 (over 48 weeks).

For full details of what councillors will debate on Thursday 9th February see the highland Council web site or this section from the full agenda.

COUNCIL TAX 2006/07 and 2007/08
There is circulated Report No.
HC/64/05 dated 2nd February 2006 by the Director of Finance which sets out information to allow Members to agree a Council Tax charge for 2006/07 and an indicative charge for 2007/08.

In this connection, there are circulated Minutes of the Special Meeting of the Council held on 2 February 2006 in relation to the Revenue Budget 2006/07.

The Council is asked to consider the report and:-

(a) agree a Band D Council Tax charge for 2006/07, noting that a 4.5% increase would be sufficient to balance a budget for the year of 488.213m after removing the unnecessary corporate provision for PPP2 of 0.8m; and

(b) consider an indicative Council Tax increase for 2007/08, noting the agreement of the recent CoSLA Leaders Meeting in relation to non-declaration of 2007/08 Council Tax.

1 February 06

The Highland Council agreed savings of 18.7 million (Thursday 2 February 2006) in confirming a budget of 489 million for 2006-7 and were advised that an even more demanding programme of savings may be needed in 2007/8.

Meeting in Inverness, the Council ratified the recommendations of the Budget Working Group to meet the implications of reduced grant support from the Scottish Executive.

Vice-Convener Councillor Michael Foxley, who is Chairman of the Budget Working Group, said: ~This has been a difficult budget to prepare and a difficult year lies ahead in implementing the savings. You cannot make savings of this scale without some pain.  "Looking ahead to 2007/8, the situation is unlikely to improve as the Executive continues its campaign to drive down public spending. We must look at our costs and the way we deliver services. We will be very closely monitoring our budgets to ensure we deliver the savings."

The Budget Working Group, he said, had sought to ensure that robust and sustainable saving measures were found that had minimal implications on frontline service delivery.

This included 6.841 million of efficiency savings, which exceeded the target set by the Scottish Executive of 2.681 million.

The budget allowed for energy price increases estimated at 30% or 1.9 million in 2006/7 and 3.6 million across 2005/6 and 2006/7 as well as an employer's pension contribution increase of 1.5 million.

A contingency sum of 1.573 million has been included in the budget for the impact of job evaluation.

Included within the budget is additional spending of 4.1 million on road maintenance; 1.55 million for payments to care home owners; 769,000 for class contact reduction/additional teachers; 517,000 for faster access to home care; and 387,000 for social work staff upskilling.

The Council was asked to consider introducing a charge of 10 for a bulky uplift from domestic homes. TEC Services Committee Chairman Councillor Charlie King estimated the Council could achieve income of 375,000 from introducing this charge.  Councillor David Munro, Committee Vice-Chairman, moved an amendment that the charge should not be implemented as he felt it would be difficult to introduce a charging system and this would result in fly-tipping. He asked that officials be instructed to present a full report investigating full cost recovery of charging commercial operators for using civic amenity sites or recycling centres.  Councillor Munro's amendment was successful by 39 votes to 22.