Highlands and Islands Greens have today accused the Highland Council of incompetence in announcing its budget cuts consultation exercise following so closely on the publication of its work programme for 2012-2017 ‘Working together for the Highlands’.
“The new Council administration published its work programme on 28 June, and which included 128 specific actions” said Neil Hornsby, Highlands and Islands Green Partyʼs campaigns Co-ordinator.
“But less than two months later, the Council announced significant budget cuts proposals, which in some cases run directly counter to some of the work programmeʼs measures.
“The previous Councilʼs agreed budget for 2012/13 was £602 million, which is precisely the same amount as that now set for 2013/14 and 2014/15, so from that starting point, at least, no cuts should be necessary.
“The Council claims the cuts exercise is necessary because there are growing needs for Council services and the Council has to meet increased costs arising from inflation. More specifically, the Council estimates that it needs £613 million in 2013/14 and £621 million in 2014/15, but is limited to an actual expenditure of £602 million. But all this was known on 28 June, the day on which the Council agreed both its work programme and the budget cuts exercise! So why could they not have announced a work programme that took full account of the known budgetary position?
“We also note that the budget consultation document includes a range of commitments in the work programme which run directly counter to the published list of areas for possible cuts. These include:
- expanding access to culture and the arts across the Highlands, while proposing a 10% saving in Instrumental Tuition;
- ensuring that all new school buildings act as a community-hub, including investigating new and innovative ways to deliver more community access to existing buildings, while reviewing the pattern and charging regime of the school Lets system;
- ensuring the provision of allotments and the maintenance of green spaces and public parks across the Highlands, while proposing a reduction in the frequency of grass cutting, street cleaning and litter picking.
“The Councilʼs confusion and inconsistency demonstrates incompetence. The clear effect of this incompetence has been to raise peopleʼs expectations in announcing its work programme, and with a great fanfare, only to dash at least some of these expectations almost immediately.”