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Highland Council in line to receive £26.7 million funding increase from Scottish Government

By Gregor White

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Highland Council has been examining how to make savings across the board.
Highland Council has been examining how to make savings across the board.

Councils are being offered a £14 billion funding settlement from the Scottish Government, according to provisional details just published.

Scotland's 32 local authorities have each been allocated a share of £13.9 billion to fund their day-to-day activities, including £6 million to support the expansion of free school meals, £242 million for teacher pay rises and more than £266 million for local government pay deals.

The extra funding is being offered in return for councils agreeing to freeze council tax and ministers are also making £144 million available to cover the freeze. The Scottish Government is in talks with COSLA over how this will be allocated.

In the case of Highland Council it received £555.4 million for financial year 2023-24, which is to increase to £582.1 m for 2024-25.

That amounts to an increase of 4.8 per cent, one of the smaller percentage increase compared to other local authority areas.

Nearby Aberdeenshire Council will see a 7.1 per cent increase in its funding (up from £534.8m to £572.9m) while the largest percentage increase goes to East Dunbartonshire, up 9.2 per cent, from £230.7m to £252m.

The average percentage increase is 5.9 per cent.

It was reported before Christmas that hundreds of people had responded to Highland Council’s programme of engagement on its slashed budget.

The council is facing an estimated budget gap of around £62m in 2024/25 and is expected to need over £100m over the next three years to balance the books.

Council leader Raymond Bremner said: “I am delighted that so many people have taken part in our survey and simulator challenge.

“With less money, we need to decide whether to reduce our costs, to increase our income or a mixture of both. We want to focus our resources on key priorities and so it is important to know what matters most to our communities.

“Significant work is currently under way to find savings and income generation to close the budget gap. This is not an easy task and difficult decisions will be required, however we aim to balance the council’s budget.”

Members of the public, council partners and staff were invited to complete a survey or take part in a budget simulator challenge to help clarify spending priorities and balance the budget.

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance Shona Robison said: “In the face of a profoundly challenging financial situation, we are making available record funding of over £14 billion to councils – a real-terms increase of 4.3 per cent on the previous year – should they agree to freeze council tax.

"The £144 million for the council tax freeze would be equivalent to an above-inflation five per cent rise in council tax nationally.

“We recognise the crucial role councils play in their communities, which is why we have increased their overall share of the Scottish Budget.

“We have made no secret of the tough choices that have been required to balance our Budget, after an Autumn Statement that failed to provide the funding Scotland needs for its public services. While I know councils had sought more funding, the settlement confirmed today represents a fair and sustainable offer.

“We have chosen to invest in our people and public services. This is a Budget that reflects our shared values as a nation and speaks to the kind of Scotland that we want to be with a record settlement for local councils at its heart.”

The publication starts the formal consultation period on the 2024-25 local government settlement. Final allocations will be published following approval by the Scottish Parliament, expected in February.

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