Argyll and Bute Council publish budget proposals

Argyll and Bute Council – who have warned for some time that there will be ‘Difficult choices for difficult times’ ahead – has revealed it will have to reduce its overall budget by £55.7 million over the next three years, with £11.9 million expected to be saved in 2011-12, providing it is accepted by elected representatives at a council meeting on Thursday, February 10.

The council is taking a medium term approach to managing its budget and will set a balanced budget over the next three years. Based on the draft budgets, the amount the council needs to spend will be more than the amount which is collected in council tax, grants and other income, by a total of £44.4m over the three year period, and the council will need to make savings in its budget over the next three years equal to these amounts.

The budget proposals will see savings for 2011-12 of £11.9m, with further savings of £20.2m in 2012-13 and £23.6m in 2013-14.

Some of Argyll and Bute Council’s reserves will be used to manage the differences for individual years - £6.8m from reserves in 2011-12, with that amount being repaid in 2012-13 (£1.9m) and 2013-14 (£4.9m).

Almost a third of the savings proposed will come from changes to the way the council operates and will not result in changes to services. The remainder will come from changes to front line services.

Potential savings of £7.6 million, identified as part of the council’s service review process, were announced in December, and formed part of the budget consultation exercise, which began in August 2010. These proposed savings are included in the budget, although some of them, if approved, will not be achieved until the second or third year of the three-year budget approach.

Some of the savings proposed by the service reviews include: increasing fees and charges for some services; transferring ownership of council halls to community trusts; reducing the provision of cleaning and janitorial services to community halls and schools; increasing the cost of school meals for primary school pupils; changing our approach to recycling.

Further proposed savings have been identified since then, as a result of the lower-than-anticipated settlement from the Scottish Government. Some of the additional savings include: closure of Lochgilphead library; no longer providing grant support to local and community transport; withdrawal or reduction of funding to some community groups; removing funding for PE and swimming lessons; closure of some public toilets; withdrawal of music instructor service; withdrawal funding for Christmas lights erection, storage and maintenance; reducing the amount spent on the core path network; removing funding for some community recycling groups; ending the contribution to wardens costs for sheltered housing schemes and replacing this with overnight home care and telecare services; reducing expenditure and services in supporting people funded services; withdrawal of funding from Princes Trust.

The council will also increase fees and charges for services by an average of 3%. This will average a 5.5% increase for services which have VAT applied.

Councillor Dick Walsh said: “Every part of Argyll and Bute will feel some impact of this budget. It’s not easy deciding to remove or change services but we do not have the money to do everything the way we did in the past.

“Councillors will decide next week how we can do this while still protecting frontline services and jobs. ”

* To read more about the budget proposals, visit Argyll and Bute Council’s website – www.argyll-bute.gov.uk