Angus Council warns of service cuts as financial crisis leaves £51m deficit
Councillors in Angus are to consider a Medium-Term Budget Strategy (MTBS) this week which describes in detail the financial crisis that the local authority faces over the next three years.
As well as rising inflation and energy costs, the council is affected by the rising cost of construction, pay settlements and higher interest rates.
The cost of the council’s capital plan has increased as a result, including the construction of the Monifieth Learning Campus which had already increased in cost as reported to Policy and Resource committee in June.
The MTBS Base Projection is for a budget gap for 23/24 of £22.8 million. This compares with a previous projection of £11.4m made in November 2021. Projections are for a gap of £13.6m in 24/25 and £15.4m in 25/26, giving a three-year base budget gap of £51.9m. This equates to requiring savings of 19.3% of the council’s base budget over the three years.
That is the equivalent of:
- Completely stopping all children, families and justice services plus all waste services plus all roads & transport services (£55m), or
- Cutting primary teachers and half of secondary teachers (£49m), or
- 80% of the funding provided to the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership for adult social care services
Angus Council said it is vital that it takes a strategic and measured approach to find savings in existing budgets to bridge the projected funding gap identified. This will also necessitate making even greater operational efficiencies; staff reductions; service contractions; and increased charges. It will likely also result in the council no longer providing some services or finding radically different ways to deliver those services.
The intention is to manage the strategic approach almost entirely through the council’s Change Programme which is anticipated to yield £14.6m over the next three years.
For context, the scale of the savings required are in addition to savings of £78.1m already made over the past 10 years and leave the council with a challenge which will require cuts or substantial changes to the services the council is able to provide on a large scale – this will regrettably affect many Angus citizens but is unavoidable given the savings which need to be made.
Angus Council’s finance convener, Cllr Bill Duff, said: “The financial situation is unprecedented. All Elected Members will need to take bold and difficult decisions to stop, or radically alter, council services to achieve a balanced budget. For example, Angus Council has benefited for many years from a low level of Council Tax, some 8% below the Scottish average. That situation is now untenable.”
Angus Council leader, Cllr Beth Whiteside, said. “No councillor wants to get elected to make cuts and increase charges, but there is no escaping the financial realities we now find ourselves in. Our job is to take responsibility and make the best decisions we can to prioritise our resources.
“We know that many families are stretched financially, but the council has to continue to protect our most vulnerable citizens and provide essential services and to do that, we will have to ask those who can, to do more.”
“We particularly want to ask the people of Angus to work with us, because with community support, pooling resources and prioritising the work we currently do, we can get Angus through this challenging time. However, people must understand that we simply won’t be able to do everything that we’ve always done.”
Angus Council chief executive Margo Williamson added: “Like elected members, colleagues in Angus Council became public servants to make a difference and deliver quality services for everyone. As our recent Best Value report showed, we are already a lean and efficient organisation. I hope that the public will be mindful that colleagues in the council are already under significant pressure, delivering more services with less money and fewer colleagues, while dealing with their own personal challenges.
“Please treat Angus Council staff with respect during this challenging period. We all want to do the best job we can to ensure Angus a great place to live, work and visit.”