Council sets tough budget
Archived news: published on Thursday 25 Feb 2016 by Fife Council
Council Leader, David Ross
Investments for a fairer Fife but short-term savings are unsustainable
Today (Thursday February 25) members of Fife Council agreed on ways to save and invest money to balance its budget for 2016-17 and continue to prioritise areas like education, social care and employability.
Despite making savings year on year, reduced funding and increasing demand for services mean the Council’s budget gap will keep growing, reaching £91million in three years.
The budget for 2016-17 identifies savings worth £30.9m but £10.6m of this will be reinvested in services to help create a fairer, healthier Fife – which will also save public money in the long run.
Council Leader David Ross said the sheer scale of the savings that need to be made and the short timescale the council had to respond to a revised situation had made it impossible to plan a sustainable budget.
“Like other councils, we didn't expect such a large reduction in our Government grant and, since December, we’ve had to very quickly find ways to save another £17m in the year ahead,” said Councillor Ross.
“As an administration we had planned to propose a council tax increase of 7.5%. This would have cost most households in Fife between just 80p and £2.00 a week and given us over £7million to put towards local services. In public feedback, two out of three people said they supported this idea. However, the Government attached new conditions to our funding package and would have withheld £25m from Fife services if we'd increased council tax, ruling out this option.
“The Scottish Government has allocated £16.8m extra funding for health and social care. So we have cut back our ongoing funding by 3.6% or £5m, in line with the cut to the council’s grant funding, but we’ll re-invest £1.8m to account for growth.
“And we're making other recurring savings, including £1.5m from the operational budget for nursery education, although £700,000 of this will be reinvested in early years services such as family nurture. This will build on our £7.8m investment in early years services which are proving successful in helping to close the educational attainment gap.
“To bridge the bigger than expected gap this year, we've identified over £13m from temporary savings. These are one-off cutbacks which will undoubtedly put strain on services and staff. These savings will give us some breathing space as we consider ways to transform services and spending on a permanent basis to meet the ongoing budget challenge.
“Temporary savings will include £2.7m from supplies and services, a £2m reduction in building maintenance and a £1.1m reduction in roads maintenance.
“No one wants to reduce funding for the upkeep of our roads. But it is an area where we can choose to do less, and so temporarily save money. However, in the year ahead we plan to undertake a full review of our roads service, in consultation with the public, councillors and professionals.”
The council has agreed savings of £30.9m in 2016-17, which include:
- £5.5m operational savings identified by managers across the council
- £960,000 from internal Support Services
- £500,000 by reducing Parks, Streets and Open Spaces operations
- £350,000 by removing the taxi card scheme
- £2.7m reduction in budget for external supplies and services (one year only )
- £2m reduction in building maintenance (one year only)
Cllr Ross continued: “This year the council will invest £10.6m to make sure we don’t lose focus on our priorities and our ambition to create a fairer Fife. This includes over £7m to implement the children and families strategy as agreed last year and £1.8m to cover demographic pressures on health and social care services.
“We’ve earmarked smaller investments for projects that we believe will have a big impact. For example, there’s £250,000 over three years to develop free swimming lessons for P1 pupils, following a successful pilot in Cowdenbeath. Data shows that by P6 it’s children from the poorest backgrounds who are lacking this life skill and the potential health benefits it brings.
“In addition there’s £50,000 this year to continue drug rehabilitation work and £10,000 to roll out the OTAGO strength and balance programme for older people in care homes to help prevent falls and injuries.
“I believe these are valuable investments that will have far-reaching consequences for some of the people in the most need. We would like to do more for individuals and communities throughout Fife. This is not our ideal budget; we do not want to cut services – but we must work with the funding made available to us.”
The budget also makes provision for almost £800,000 over the next two years to support community organisations develop alternative ways to run nine libraries, which now includes Lundin Links.
Download the Approved Revenue Budget 2016-19 as presented to Fife Council.