A balanced council budget for 2023/24 was set at the meeting of The Highland Council on 2 March 2023.
As part of a package of investment and savings to address a £49.2M budget gap, a 4% increase in Council Tax has been agreed from 1 April 2023.
A 4% increase on Council Tax Band D for 2023-24 is equivalent to an extra £1.06 per week.
Leader of the Council, Raymond Bremner, set out the joint administration’s budget strategy, explaining the challenging financial context in which the budget was developed.
“We are facing a perfect storm of circumstances with inflation at the highest levels, rising interest rates and a cost of living crisis.
“This is confounded by uncertainty around future pressures and risks and a lack of clarity on ring-fenced funding.
“In setting this budget, we have tried to be fair.
“We have focused on removing duplication and over-provision and making sure our services are affordable.
“We have carefully considered where we target our spending and have chosen to invest in improving our roads, reducing our waste, supporting children and families, and protecting jobs.”
Convener Bill Lobban added:
“Everyone is affected by the cost of living crisis.
“We recognise the pressures on people across Highland and have therefore limited the Council Tax increase to the lowest we can at 4%, despite higher rises elsewhere, in order to protect low-income families and those experiencing in-work poverty.
“This is a budget which, as much as possible protects jobs and services, has only been made possible due to the sound financial management of both the current and previous Administration in building Reserves for hard times such as this.
“Although a budget has been agreed for the coming year, money in Reserves can only be used once.
“Therefore, the task will begin immediately, building on our redesign and transformation work, to develop a sustainable budget for future years.”
Council Tax charges for 2023/2024 will be published shortly at: https://www.highland.gov.uk/downloads/download/525/council_tax_rates
Council Tax bills for 2023/2024 will be issued over the coming weeks.
Scottish Water and Waste Water Service charges are also shown and these charges are set by Scottish Water.
Council Tax Reduction is available for those on low incomes and can reduce Council Tax by up to 100%.
For a Band D property this can be as much as £1,372.30, leaving only the Scottish Water and Waste Water charges to pay.
Households already in receipt of Council Tax Reduction will have their entitlement automatically recalculated and their 2023/24 Council Tax bill will be adjusted accordingly.
The households who are currently paying their Council Tax by Direct Debit do not need to cancel or change their existing payment amount as this will be updated automatically from 1 April 2023.
A Direct Debit mandate needs to be completed only once.
Thereafter the correct amounts are collected each year.
Households who wish to set up a Direct Debit for payment of their council tax can do so at www.highland.gov.uk/counciltax
Chair of Resources Committee Derek Louden said:
“There is help available for those struggling with rising costs and I would encourage those to check if they are entitled to any financial assistance – particularly Council Tax Reduction – in order to reduce bills and maximise household income.
“The Council has a strong track record in supporting Highland householders to apply for financial assistance to in order to boost income for our citizens.”