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Highland Council urges Scottish Government to provide Covid funding clarity

By Andrew Dixon

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Councillor Alister Mackinnon.
Councillor Alister Mackinnon.

Highland Council's budget leader has written to Scotland's finance secretary asking what plans the Scottish Government has for implementing an income recompense scheme to help councils in Scotland.

Councillor Alister Mackinnon contacted Kate Forbes after a UK government scheme to help cover lost income for local authorities in England and Wales was announced.

Highland councillors are keen for UK and Scottish governments to provide clarity on the scheme urgently.

Highland Council is considering a range of potential budget gap scenarios, with the focus being an expected overspend of £28.259 million.

A loss of income from fees and charges is the biggest financial concern to the council, with a potential £18 million of expected income lost.

The UK government scheme, with funding to be controlled and administered by the Scottish Government, is intended to provide 75 pence of funding for every lost £1 of income. This funding would significantly reduce the forecast overspend facing the council.

Cllr Mackinnon said: “Last month we reported a projected budget overspend of £35.7 million so it is encouraging that a short while later we are now looking at this figure dropping to £28.259 million. This reflects both the constantly changing wider context around Covid as well as the hard work and mitigation measures that have been put in place and I would like to thank the chief executive [Donna Manson] and her staff for all they have done.

“The details of the adverse wider impact Covid-19 is having on the Highland economy are yet to fully emerge but are expected to be substantial and there is no doubt that the longer-term impacts of these factors will be felt by the council, both in terms of reduced income generation and increasing demand for services over many years to come.

“Never has there been such a time of uncertainty and what has come over loud and clear in discussions today has been the need for us to all pull together for the benefit of everyone who lives and works in the Highlands."

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