The Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Councillor Ronnie Nicholson today (17 November 2015) has warned that the Council could be hit by a “double cuts whammy” when the Scottish Government sets its budget in December.
Speaking at a meeting of the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee the Leader informed members that despite the council already having set in place a way forward to save £12.5m in the council’s revenue budget for the next financial year, he fears that the Scottish Government could cut the Council's grant by up to another £4.5m.
The Scottish Government is set to publish it’s budget just before Christmas. In previous years Councils have been provided in advance with details of their Scottish Government grant for the year ahead but this has been delayed this year until December. Councillor Nicholson told Councillors at the Committee meeting today that he fears that the Scottish Government may go beyond the indicative cut in the Government grant already built into the council’s revenue budget – leaving the council just two months to find additional savings before it is due to meet in February to make any changes to the agreed budget for the year ahead.
Councillor Nicholson said, “Last year we set a three year budget due to the sheer scale of the savings needed as a result of cuts in the Scottish Government grant and the freeze in the Council tax. This set out savings of £32m over three years, on top of the massive £40m the council has already had to find over the past four years.
“To deal with next year alone we have put in place a way forward to save £12.5m. However, it now seems that the Scottish Government is considering further cuts to our budget of up to £4.5m. We won’t know for certain until the week before Christmas when the Scottish Government announces its budget. Maybe I’m cynical but it sounds to me to be the perfect time of year for the Scottish Government to try to bury bad news”.
“Any further grant reductions would be a double cuts whammy from the Scottish Government and be the single biggest attack on local council budgets across Scotland. Due to the fact we set a three year indicative budget we are fortunate in that we have already done a lot of work in identifying savings for the year ahead. But those savings are already putting enormous pressure on council services and whilst we will keep making the council as efficient as possible and do all we can to protect frontline services, people need to wake up to the fact that more cuts from the Scottish Government would put many local services at breaking point.”