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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Council tax frozen for the year to come

NO COMPULSORY redundancies, council tax frozen and an extra £1m of capital to repair roads are some of the key points of Dumfries and Galloway council’s budget for 2013/14.

The council met last Thursday to determine its budget and council tax level, while cutting £7.9m from its annual expenditure.

Key decisions include freezing council tax, which has not risen since 2007 and is the lowest rate in mainland Scotland, and investing £2.2m in key priority areas.

The council needs to save £27m over the next three years. This equates to £7m in 2013/14. Members agreed the savings proposals to achieve this target. Details of these savings can be found on the website.

Council leader, councillor Ivor Hyslop, said: “In the next financial year we must save £7.2m, having already made reductions of £29.3m over the previous three years.

“To continue delivering balanced budgets we must save nearly as much again over the coming three years.

“Our budget avoids compulsory redundancies, supports small businesses through a package of targeted measures and expands our graduate employment and apprenticeship schemes.

“We continue to support civic pride initiatives and this year make specific provision, in the run-up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, to recognise and support sporting excellence. We are also introducing community commissioning pilots and support for burial grounds maintenance.

“We also recognise the importance of reducing our Council’s physical office estate and carbon emissions.”

Community commissioning pilots are schemes under which communities take on services which the council can no longer afford, including looking after public toilets and mult-use games areas.

Annandale East and Eskdale councillor Denis Male said: “For me the key point is we’ve managed to make savings without any forced redundancies.

“Money had to come out of education but in a way which will not do too much damage. Myself and councillor Ian Carruthers managed to successfully argue for music tuition in schools.

“We both saw that as a big issue for schools in Annandale and Eskdale.

“We’re putting another £1m of capital into roads and £400,000 into play parks.

“It’s essential in rural areas we don’t take away play equipment without replacing it and make sure it is in the right places where it’s needed.”

He believed Annandale and Eskdale had some of the worst roads and had the most need for repairs so the district would get its share. The area committee would monitor that.

In Langholm they were working on a whole new scenario for looking after the elderly, including using the Thomas Hope Hospital site, and there would be exciting news for the area.

The Labour group criticised the administration’s plans to slash teacher numbers and adult education provision and fail to invest properly in road repairs.

Councillor Ronnie Nicholson said: “The proposals show how hopelessly out of touch they are with people’s priorities.

“They will need to face their communities and tell them that class sizes in schools will increase, the plague of potholes in roads will get worse and some of the most vulnerable people will be thrown on the scrapheap because of their decision to cut the adult education budget.”

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