Published: 08/02/2018 13:00 - Updated: 07/02/2018 14:42

Axe delayed as council fails to agree on capital budget cuts

Written byEmma Crichton

 

Alister Mackinnon
Councillor Alister Mackinnon says proposed capital spending cuts will not be put forward until next month.

SWINGEING cuts to Highland Council’s capital budget for schools, roads and leisure centres have been pushed back.

Councillors have been battling to halve the capital plan from £110 million to £55 million and were due to announce which projects are to be scrapped today, but have not been able to agree a final list.

Budget leader Alister Mackinnon confirmed yesterday that the Independent-led administration will not now be putting forward proposals until March 8.

The current plan includes new schools and major refurbishment to existing ones, as well as multimillion-pound new sports facilities, flood prevention work and road and bridge upgrades.

However, councillors were warned last year that shrinking budgets meant the list would have to be slashed to make it affordable.

Councillor Mackinnon said: "At the budget meeting next week we will set a final figure for the capital plan, but in terms of prioritising projects that will not happen until March."

Opposition leader, Councillor Maxine Smith, said: "This is now beyond a joke.

"It was bad enough when the administration put the public through the wringer with its proposed education cuts and now they want to keep communities waiting on which projects will be included in their proposed capital budget.

"It is increasingly apparent that the coalition is creaking at the seams and the people of the Highlands will have to wait while the coalition fights among itself over which projects will be included in their final proposal."

The capital programme has caused friction among councillors as they battle to get the green light for projects in their own ward.

Recently city sports enthusiasts as well as leading athletes have been calling on Highland Council not to step away from plans to create an indoor arena in Inverness.

The mooted £23 million development for Bught Park is reliant on at least £7 million from the council, as supporters say it will boost opportunities for young athletes and provide a valuable new revenue stream.

Under current proposals it would include space for athletics, cycling, gymnastics, judo and tennis as well as providing a possible new conference/events venue.

However, political leaders have said that in such cash-strapped times schools must be prioritised.

In terms of the revenue budget cuts totalling £18 million are still expected to be announced today.

Proposals so far include cutting teachers, reducing rubbish bin collections to every three weeks, closing play parks and upping the controversial £30 garden waste charge, introduced last year, to £35.

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