Highland Council’s £2.28m overspend from the last financial year will be funded from its dwindling reserves, prompting criticism from Opposition councillors.
The council’s non-earmarked general reserve fund now sits at £7.925m, compared to last year’s level of £8.4m.
At 1.4% of annual revenue budget, this is well below the minimum level of 2% suggested by Audit Scotland.
The council says a reserve of such a low level exposes it to the risk of not having enough funding to invest in transformational change or address any cost pressures that might arise in the future.
Councillor Ian Cockburn is newly appointed co-leader of the Opposition SNP group alongside councillor Maxine Smith.
He said: “To put it mildly the council can’t keep going like this seeing its reserves whittled away.
“This has been accumulating for years and the Administration just wouldn’t do anything about it.
“There were savings to be made from various initiatives but they never really forced the changes through.
“They have got a new chief executive, Donna Manson, and she has seen this and is putting things in place to start doing things about it.
“We’re giving her the chance to sort this out, but every section head must now take responsibility for their budgets and have good reasons why they don’t make their budgets.
“If not it should be the same as industry where you’re out.”
Budget Leader Cllr Alister Mackinnon said: “The final outturn for the year is an overspend of £2.280M.
“This reflects a substantial improvement from the forecast overspend at end of Quarter 3 of £5.550M.
“This more positive position demonstrates the steps taken at an early stage to address and correct what was a worsening position at the time. Strong governance, vacancy management and expenditure controls have not been easy, but have been essential to bring us back into a more stable position.”
The council’s revenue situation will be discussed by Corporate Resources committee in Inverness tomorrow.