**press release from the Highland Council SNP group**
As time passes and the Highland Council approach the eleventh hour with regard to the setting of the budget the SNP Group are pleased to acknowledge that the proposed cuts will be nowhere near what was originally proposed by the Independent Group.
Talking about this, Cllr. Maxine Smith, who leads the Opposition and the SNP Group in Highland Council said, “The Scottish Government will be raising money from the highest bandings of Council Tax, in order to assist local authorities in balancing their budgets. This rise by Scottish Government will only affect the very large houses in Highland and there will be mitigation measures for those living alone or people with little income.
Originally it was thought that this £5m, which will be raised would go directly to schools suffering in the educational attainment gap. However, subsequently the Scottish Government decided to fund this initiative separately so the whole £5m will assist Highland Council with balancing its own budget without being ring-fenced. At the full council the Independents formed a last minute motion to write to the Finance Minister, and now they are claiming it was their letter that effected a change of mind in Holyrood. This I found amusing, as I had told them time after time that the money raised by the “Council Tax multiplier” was always going to come back to Highland, but they didn’t listen! Now they see this was in fact correct.
Further to this some of the media releases submitted by the Independent Administration have been less than genuine. They were looking at a budget gap of over £29m just a few weeks ago, but since being given their grant settlement figure, are now only looking at a gap of £22m. They pontificated about the cut from Scottish Government being worse than they were expecting, when the truth of the matter is that the Scottish Government under the current economic situation, have given Councils a good settlement, as best they could and Highland Council are now looking at £7m LESS cuts than they were a few weeks ago. Surely, this is a good news story?”