Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has set its Budget for 2023/24.
The Comhairle is facing an estimated budget deficit of £6.4m for the forthcoming financial year and has agreed measures comprising a mixture of savings and the use of reserves to deal with the deficit..
The Scottish Government Financial Settlement, together with ring fenced commitments, pay awards and significant inflationary pressures, means a further reduction in the amount of money the Comhairle has to spend on services.
The budget papers are available on the Comhairle Budgets webpage.
Council Tax has been increased by 5%, an increase of £61.46 or £1.18 per week at Band D.
Two amendments were not successful and the Budget went through as per the recommendations.
Speaking during the meetings, Comhairle Leader Paul Steele said:
“This Budget comes before the Comhairle at a time of unprecedented pressures on both our revenue and capital budgets, and on public sector finance in Scotland generally. Added to these pressures have been significant and fluctuating increases in the costs of, well, everything: fuel, energy, commodities, construction materials, food and travel, in fact everything which contributes to people’s wellbeing and to a functioning economy.
All of these have conspired to bring about a cost-of-living crisis not just for individuals and households but also for the organisations and authorities such as the Comhairle which support the community with our jobs, our services and our political advocacy. Having managed the largest funding reduction of any Local Authority in Scotland during the last term we have protected frontline services to the public as much as possible with a prudent, sensible approach to the realities of the financial situation we have found ourselves in but it’s been a process of transformation and cuts that has left many Services stretched.
Any proposal to freeze Council Tax will severely restrict the Council’s ability to maintain services to help those hardest pressed and most in need and the amendment in my view will actually do more harm than good to the very people it suggests it’s helping.”
On the specific issue of Additional Support Needs where savings were proposed, Cllr Steele said:
“the (Education) department proposes the removal of Support for Learning (SFL) and Additional Support Needs (ASN) posts that have been vacant and unfilled for one year. It also proposes discontinuing the fixed term additional PTLS post in the Nicolson Institute which was linked to an ASN review in the school.”