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Caithness News Bulletins January 2006

January 2006 November 2005

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489 MILLION BUDGET RECOMMENDED FOR 2006-7
The Highland Council will be asked on Thursday (2 February) to confirm a savings package of 18.7 million in setting a budget of 489 million for 2006-7.

A report by Alan Geddes, Director of Finance, described the budget outlook faced by the Council as the most challenging in recent years. The level of savings needed to balance the budget were of a level previously seen only in the early years of the Council in 1996.

He forecast that the Council would face an even more difficult budget outlook in 2007/8, which highlighted the critical need to balance the budget in the new financial year with sustainable savings.

He said: "All the indications from the Scottish Executive and the Treasury clearly state that the spending review scheduled for 2007 will not hold out prospects for an improvement in future grant settlements."

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 revenue budget of 489 million is funded by 279.8 million of revenue support grant from the Scottish Executive; 77.4 million of non-domestic rate income; 33.3 million of specific grants from the Executive; 96.3 million of Council Tax income and 2.1 million of Council balances.

The budget allows 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.

It also takes into account increases of 2.29 million on waste management contracts; 1 million to compensate for a reduction in supporting people grant; 440,000 in meeting homelessness 364,000 on school transport contracts; and 300,000 to meet increased demand in care for older people.

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 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 will set the Council Tax on Thursday 9 February. The current Band D payment is 1,086.