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October 10, 2012

Only a matter of time

At the DTAS conference last month, Colin Mair of the Local Government Improvement Service provided a stark illustration of just how bad public finances are going to be for the foreseeable future.  He was trying to help the audience envisage the kind of paradigm shift that he thinks will be needed in the way that public services are currently thought about and delivered.  Highland Council have already travelled some way along that journey and before too long others will have to follow.


A local authority has asked for public views on its idea that some services could be better provided by the communities that use them.

The suggestion has been made on Highland Council’s Budget Blog, which forms part of the authority’s efforts to consult on spending cuts.

The blog asks which services could be taken over by locally run projects.

The council has already agreed to set up a £1m challenge fund to help finance community-run services.

Dave Fallows, chairman of the finance, housing and resources committee, heads up the blog.

Writing on the blog, he said: “There are some circumstances where a community initiative – even at a very local level – can provide the same or better services than the council can, and at lower cost. 

“We have agreed to provide a £1m challenge fund to be available to get good ideas for provision of services going in local communities.

“Do you think that we should be encouraging communities to take on the running of some services for themselves, and if so, which?”

Highland Council has already suggested greater community involvement in other areas of its work.

Parents and local sports clubs will be asked to help make sure Highland schools meet targets for PE, according to an officers’ report earlier this month.

In his blog, Mr Fallows has also sought views on whether the council should reduce the frequency of street cleaning and grass cutting to save money, or if such action would be damaging in terms of tourism.

Highland Council spends £2.8m a year on grounds maintenance and £3.1m on cleaning streets and picking up litter.