The Highland Council is preparing for a budget gap of over £80M within the current financial year due to the impact of the Coronavirus crisis.
All Members received an update today on the budget situation as part of their regular briefing sessions.
Budget Leader Councillor Alister Mackinnon said:
“Officers are currently preparing a full impact analysis to assess lost income and new cost pressures we are facing.
“Just in terms of income lost, we have seen a 63% drop in our planning income alone with a 52% drop in planning applications and a 50% drop in Building Standards applications in comparison to the same 5 week period last year. So far this year our car park income has dropped from £77k to just £525 and we expect to lose some £5M in Council Tax receipts. Other losses will include Licensing fees and income from events and festivals and from advertising.
“We are facing tremendous new cost pressures at the same time, including additional adult social care, welfare, supply teaching and the costs of providing child care for key workers which alone is amounting to £0.5M every 10 weeks. Many of our staff are unable to carry out their normal duties and efforts are concentrated on dealing with the emergency situation, managing the Humanitarian Assistance Centres, volunteer coordination and helpline response. This means we are unable to deliver many of the budget savings agreed in March.
“The utmost priority is of course is to support the nationwide response to slowing the spread of the virus, providing welfare and business support and the health and wellbeing of our staff and our communities. I also want to express my thanks and my praise for the tremendous response of all our staff in taking on new tasks, adapting their roles and responding with resilience and enormous care to this crisis.”
He added: “We are preparing for Recovery and Renewal in the medium to long term, but we are a long way from any return to normal.”