The Council is working closely with key public, private and third sector partners to understand the shared impact of the current financial crisis and the action that can be taken to maximise combined resources to deliver core services across Highland, through collective budget strategies and redesign.
As part of this work, The Highland Council and High Life Highland (HLH) have been working together to address the impact of the pandemic and the ongoing financial crisis.
High Life Highland, which provides valued culture and leisure services on behalf of The Highland Council as an “arms-length” organisation, is experiencing similar financial challenges to the Council as it recovers from the pandemic and faces pay pressures, high inflation and increasing operating costs, as well as reduced income streams due to the financial pressures on families across the Highlands.
At Highland Council’s meeting on 27 October, Members will be asked to note the steps HLH are taking to mitigate their in-year and ongoing budget pressures and the ongoing work to be taken forward in partnership with HLH in relation to redesign and contract review.
Members will be asked to agree funding to be drawn down at financial year end to ensure HLH avoids entering a negative reserves position and provide assurance that they can implement the national SJC pay award for HLH staff in the current year.
The impact will be to increase the Council’s earmarked balance held to support HLH by £0.4m to £1.4m for 2022-23.
The Leader of the Council, Raymond Bremner said: “Both our organisations are affected by the current financial crisis, with rapidly increasing costs of pay, energy, goods and services.
“High Life Highland provides a valuable service to our Highland communities. It is important, and fair, that their staff receive an equal pay award to Council staff to enable families to cope with the rising costs affecting everyone.
“It is also imperative that both Highland Council and HLH are financially sustainable into the future. To this end, we will be working together to redesign services, reduce costs, provide best value for money, and bring down our energy bills in the coming months and years to ensure we can both deliver a balanced budget.”
High Life Highland Chair, Mark Tate said: “Families across the Highlands will recognise the financial pressures we all face. I and the High Life Charity board are committed to honouring the national SJC pay award for our exceptional people. Highland Council, as our parent company, sole shareholder and biggest customer, has provided great support to the charity over the past couple of difficult years whilst continuing to recognise the value of our arms-length status. This has enabled us to continue delivering on behalf of Highland Council and others, to make life better for Highland communities. We look forward to continuing this strong partnership and will work closely with the Council to ensure continued sustainable delivery.”
A report will be considered at the Highland Council meeting on 27 October.