Fury at the prospect of more Highland Council job and service cuts is set to boil over at a pre-Christmas full council meeting next week.
Opposition politicians yesterday (FRI) accused the minority independent-led administration of lacking creativity and preparing to inflict “damaging proposals” to plug the latest multimillion-pound budget gap.
The independents threw back a challenge of coming up with alternative ideas fast.
Based on its projection of the latest government grant support reduction, almost 130 jobs are likely to go to help bridge a £26million shortfall for 2017-18, compared with £50million – 10% of the revenue budget – last time.
A full debate will not be until February due to the lateness of respective financial statements from the UK and Scottish governments.
But the burning issues are set to ignite Thursday’s meeting when the administration will make a final, passionate plea to Scottish ministers to find extra resources in the year the SNP’s long-running council tax freeze is lifted.
An emergency motion will state that the council “notes the UK Government’s autumn statement which shows a small increase in resources coming to Scotland.”
It adds: “In view of this, Highland Council urges the Scottish Government not to impose further damaging cuts but provide a cash flat settlement which will help the council avoid making painful cuts to frontline services.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “As Audit Scotland’s report last week confirmed, we have treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government. Highland Council has and will continue to receive its fair share of the available funding, which amounted to over £464.6 million in 2016-17.
“The Finance Secretary will publish the Scottish Draft Budget next week, which will support our economy, tackle inequality and provide high-quality public services for all.”
Opposition SNP group leader Maxine Smith accused council leaders of using “little or no imagination” to generate more income. The administration hit back, citing an example of a recently created commercial manager who, in a matter of months, helped reap an extra £722,000.
Liberal Democrat group leader Alasdair Christie said proposed cuts in areas including street cleaning, grass cutting, music tuition and adult services would be “damaging.”
Budget leader Bill Fernie will seek approval for an “employee early release scheme” similar to last year’s voluntary redundancy invitation in an effort to avoid compulsory job cuts.