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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Council to find £30m in savings

A MASSIVE £30m is being cut from Dumfries and Galloway council’s budget over the next three financial years, starting with £7.2m in 2013/14.

The Conservative and SNP administration revealed its budget proposals for next year at a meeting of the full council last week, with the figure falling to £7.2m from an expected £8.4m. But in the next two financial years the cuts will be even more savage: £10.7m in 2014/15 and £11.7m in 2015/16.

One service to be hardest hit next year will be education with a cut of £1.9m. Secondary schools will lose £600,000.

Planning, housing and environment will have to reduce its budget by £1.4m, including a cut of £500,000 in roads maintenance, on top of the decision not to continue with the £538,000 of extra funding for roads this year.

Another £749,000 will go from community and customer services, including £150,000 from adult learning, £63,000 from the libraries materials fund and £200,000 will be saved by closing community centres.

The proposals include taking out £2.1m from the chief executive service through management/ staffing reductions (£550,000), along with efficiency programmes and a review of supplies and services (£675,000).

Council leader, councillor Ivor Hyslop, in his report, Putting Local People First, said: “Over the last three years we have already managed to reduce spending by £29.3m, 7.5 per cent of our spending, avoiding compulsory redundancies and maintaining services.

“The council still has more than £340m to spend in the next financial year. We listened to the views offered by many of you in recent public meetings and have set out a budget which ensures we can continue to meet our commitments to you.

“We recognise this challenging economic climate puts household and business budgets under real pressure so we will not be increasing fees and charges for council services. Labour condemned the coalition for refusing to allow any questions from councillors at the meeting and confirming that the public will have no say on the cuts proposals. Finance spokesman councillor Colin Smyth said: “This was a shocking case of trying to bury bad news before Christmas in the hope the public won’t notice.

“The cuts for next year mean the number of school teachers will be slashed and adult education decimated, council funding for outside organisations such as Welfare Rights and Turning Point will be all but ended and the budget for road repairs will be cut at a time when we have a plague of potholes in the region.”

Councillor Hyslop, defending the budget procedure, said Labour’s comments were a “shocking misrepresentation”.

He said: “Labour members will have an opportunity to feed into the process and scrutinise the proposals through service committees before budget-setting day in February.

“Nobody is suggesting this process is easy, but for Labour to suggest this administration has taken no account of public opinion is simply not true.”

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