Argyll and Bute Council to seek additional government funding

Councillor Dick Walsh, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, is to write to the Depute First Minister seeking additional government funds for the authority.
Councillor Dick Walsh, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, is to write to the Depute First Minister seeking additional government funds for the authority.

The leader of Argyll and Bute Council is to write to the Deputy First Minister seeking additional government funding for Argyll and Bute.

The decision was taken at Thursday’s [October 8] Policy and Resources Committee which considered savings options identified in response to the council’s predicted funding gap of £21.7 - £26 million over the coming years.

Council Leader, Dick Walsh, said: “We would like to do all that our communities want us to but lack of funding means that this just is not possible. We have already made savings of more than £30 million in the past few years. In addition to this, through effective financial management as recognised by Audit Scotland, we have been able to invest in regeneration and building Argyll and Bute’s economy of opportunity.

“This level of funding gap however means that there are no easy choices to make.

“Argyll and Bute benefits from having both rural and island communities. In fact we have the highest number of inhabited islands of any Scottish local authority. This brings with it financial challenges in delivering services and support.

“The majority - 80 per cent - of our funding comes from the Scottish Government. Other public agencies have had their funding increased in recent years, while the council’s has been reduced.

“The council is working to do all we can to reduce the impact of the funding gap on our communities and residents. Taking action to seek additional government resources is one more step.”

The committee also agreed to invest in an innovation fund to develop initiatives focused on growing council income or delivering economic growth.

Cllr Walsh said: “Planning our future is about more than service choices. It’s about transforming how we work so that we can achieve savings and continue to invest in building future prosperity.

“Growing council income through new ways of working will reduce the need for savings and help protect services and jobs.

“We’ve being doing a lot of work already to deliver efficiencies and innovation over the past years. This fund will help build on that work.”

The authority is working with Scotland Excel in developing innovation across the council.

The committee also considered savings options identified in response to the predicted funding gap, and agreed that until additional government funding is forthcoming, all savings options (more than 140) should be recommended to council on October 22 for public consultation.

Cllr Walsh said: “More options have been identified than we will need to take to allow for choice and effective consultation with our communities. We are legally required to balance our budget. Where there is a funding gap, we must bridge it. This means difficult decisions. We would like to progress these options to the right decisions with our communities.”

Public consultation is planned to begin at the end of October subject to agreement by Argyll and Bute Council on October 22.

Decisions on savings options will be taken after findings from the consultation are available, at the council meeting planned for February 2016.