“These are tough times for local government. Cuts to council funding continue. Change in how we support our area and our people must therefore continue. Difficult choices about the work of the council must continue.”
Councillor Aileen Morton, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, has outlined the context in which the local authority must set its budget later this month.
Reports setting out the council’s financial position will be considered first at the Policy and Resources Committee on 15th February ahead of the full council budget meeting on the 22nd.
Councillor Morton continued: “Argyll and Bute Council faced a 4% cut to our government funding when announcements were first made in December, compared to the Scottish average of 1.8%. Adjustments and additional funding have now improved the situation for 18/19.
“However, the harsh fact is that taking into account additional commitments asked for by government our funding has still reduced by 1.5% for 2018/19. It is expected to continue falling in the years to come so the Council needs to consider the longer term. In the starkest terms we needed to make savings of £5million this year and will need to save a further £22million over the next two years.
“Prudent financial planning and transforming how services are delivered by this council means we can soften the blow to some extent of yet another round of savings. We have already made decisions earlier this year and in past years that have helped to fill that £5million gap, and of course there is an expectation by the Scottish Government that we will apply a 3% increase in council tax.”
The reports show that the council has the option of achieving a surplus in its budget for 18/19 if it takes certain actions which were identified in previous reports such as increasing council tax, increasing fees and charges, and reducing funding to the Health and Social Care Partnership.
The reports also set out that government funding, for services and infrastructure, includes conditions for how this funding is used which inevitably impacts on services not prioritised by the government.
Councillor Morton added: “Balancing the council’s budget will be about balancing the conditions and limitations of our funding settlement with the needs of our area and the wishes of our communities.
“We know for example that the condition of our road network matters hugely to local people and businesses. Government funding dedicates more money to building early learning centres, which is great, but leaves less for other infrastructure investment such as roads.
“With funding cuts expected to continue in the years to come, a responsible budget will be based on decisions that best serve Argyll and Bute in the long term, as well as now.”
The council Leader also acknowledged the time taken by hundreds of local people who responded to the council’s budget consultation.
“Almost 800 people took part, giving around 2,500 comments on ways we could make savings and raise income. I would like to thank everyone who took time to get involved in making what will be difficult choices.”
The budget reports, including the full consultation findings, can be found here: