Up for the cuts: first step to slashed budgets at Argyll and Bute?

Argyll and Bute Council's HQ at Kilmory Castle in Lochgilphead.
Argyll and Bute Council's HQ at Kilmory Castle in Lochgilphead.

Children, older people and those with mental health problems are just some of the vulnerable groups which could be hit hard by proposals for severe spending cuts at Argyll and Bute Council.

The authority’s powerful policy and resources committee will meet later this week to consider a set of proposals under the innocuous description of ‘service choices’ which suggest slashing many departments’ budgets by 20 per cent to bridge a funding gap of up to £37.5 million.

This week’s first step in a process which was agreed in December will see the committee asked to agree to a set of initial savings targets of £25 million over the next two financial years.

Options for how the proposed savings might be achieved will then be explored by council officials, who will report back to the committee in June.

The report on the proposals, compiled by Steve Barrett, the authority’s interim head of strategic finance, warns: “Whilst the budget position is stable for 2015-16, there is a very challenging budgetary outlook from 2016-17 as a result of our declining population.

“The funding gap over the 5 year period to 2020-21 is estimated to be in the order of £28.1m to £37.5m.

“The service choices process agreed provides a structured approach to aligning budget with council priorities whilst delivering the estimated

savings required.

“Initial targets are intended to deliver savings of £25.0m over 2016-17 and 2017-18 to match the estimated funding gap over these two years.”

Council leader Dick Walsh said: “The priority for Argyll and Bute is clear – we need to attract more people and more jobs to the area, securing a prosperous future for everyone. However, like all Scottish local authorities, we cannot always do as much as we would like and we cannot do it alone.

“For our part, we have to make very careful decisions and make sure that we balance investing in the future with delivering services now.

“That is why we are using this period of stability to plan carefully and strategically, meaning that any decisions taken are the right ones.”