Highland Council has revealed more detail on how it plans to implement its new £2.5million ‘Change Fund’ aimed at delivering more than £30m savings.
A report detailing the first phase of the fund’s work will go before full council today in Inverness for approval.
Starting on April 1, six priority projects are proposed, including education transformation, care placement services, transport and grey fleet, waste strategy, and income generation.
The council has promised enhanced human resources, performance management, financial governance, communications and more time to support engagement with trade unions.
Regular cross-party briefings and budget updates with councillors are also promised.
Two new high level boards will be formed to report on the fund’s work.
The council says staff members will be used where possible to deliver the change and the current recruitment freeze would continue as far as possible.
The sharpest axe in February’s budget fell on education, with a £2.8m cut in the Additional Support Needs (ASN) funding over the next three years.
The Change Fund report says consultation with head teachers has led to the creation of a ‘new model for improvement’, with a structure being put in place to support schools as they ‘work together to deliver meaningful and relevant improvements for their young people and their communities.’
A team of four or five head teachers will be seconded to help embed the new system ‘supplemented by expertise drawn from outside the Highlands to help remould and develop our provision.’
Savings identified in year 1 will be achieved from ‘tighter allocation and tracking of staffing in primary, secondary and special schools’ the report says, and resources will be put in place to improve learning and teaching.
In care placement services, the report says the primary aim is to ‘improve outcomes for young people by bringing the council back in line with best practice elsewhere’ and this would result in ‘positive financial consequences’ addressing the overspend in the service, currently standing at around £3m.
The Change Fund will also address income generation, including consultation on introducing a Visitor Levy for the Highlands, and looking at collection options; and engaging with communities on options for introducing car parking charges and how the resulting income should be spent.
The fund, whose aim is to facilitate £37.4m in council savings over the next three years, was approved by councillors during the council’s budget setting last month.