Published: 08/12/2017 07:00 - Updated: 07/12/2017 09:15

City councillor calls for fairer distribution of budgets

Written byEmma Crichton

 

Richard Laird
Councillor Richard Laird wants a closer relationship between decsion makers and those their decisions affect.

INVERNESSIANS are being treated as cash cows to fund the rest of the Highlands, according to a city councillor.

Richard Laird, who represents Inverness Central, said he wanted to see money spent where it was raised.

He complained that the majority of council tax and other income from parking charges and permits, was raised in the city but was often dished out elsewhere.

He called for where money was raised to be taken into account when discussing allocation of budgets.

"There is a perception that we in Inverness already have it fine, we make all the decisions and make all of the money but we know that the opposite is the case," he said.

"I would like to see area committees with much more power over not just how they spend money but how they raise it too.

"Our residents are practically the only ones in the Highlands that pay for parking, brown bins and parking permits but it’s not just Inverness councillors who make the decisions, its councillors from every corner of the Highlands and I feel far too often many other parts of the Highlands are quite happy to bump up these charges because they know their residents aren’t paying them.

"Inverness raises 34 per cent of the council tax and probably 95 per cent of the parking charges but gets 14 per cent of the roads maintenance budget.

"That needs to change, it’s not fair and it’s not right.

"I think our residents are getting sick and tired of being a cash cow for the rest of the Highlands."

How a budget is allocated depends on what it is spent on. For example, the roads budget is dished out depending on how many miles of road each ward has, so larger areas will be given more, while housing budgets are allocated based on demand, so more densely populated areas like Inverness fare better.

But Councillor Laird, the depute SNP group leader on the council, said it was not about demanding more money for Inverness, but asking for all area committees to be given more control over their own budgets.

"I’m not simply saying I want more money for Inverness, I want a correlation between who is making the decisions and who those decisions affect," he said.

"I want all area committees to have more of a say on how their budgets are spent and on how they are raised."

When the Independent-led coalition was formed following the election in May, it pledged to devolve as much power as possible to area committees.

Council leader Margaret Davidson reiterated the promise, but said it would take time.

"There are some issues about re-basing our budgets and looking at what we spend but we’re only six months in – give us a chance," she said.

"We have a huge debate about localism to have and I think we need to be far more radical than we have been.

"What I don’t want to do is just jump in and have a bun fight because that is just ridiculous.

"I do think we will be looking at a very different council in 18 months’ time."

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