Falkirk Council outlines housing spend for next year in ‘hardest ever’ budget
The investment, which was agreed as part of a larger three year £81 million budget, will upgrade existing homes and add new homes in the local area.
Overall the council revealed that around £25m of savings will have to be found in the next year to allow it to continue to provide local services and balance its £330m net revenue budget.
The housing budget will see over 5,000 properties improved and upgraded as part of Falkirk Council’s ongoing commitment to meet national housing and energy standards in the next year.
In addition, £3.4m will be spent on delivering 82 new homes in Stenhousemuir, Denny and Falkirk and £6m will be allocated to continue to ‘buy-back’ around 80-90 former council properties, helping to meet the demand for council housing.
Councillor Gerry Goldie, spokesperson for housing said: “We’re delivering a massive improvement programme that will continue to make a real difference to our tenants’ lives across the area.
“We will be spending around £40m to maintain and improve our housing next year. This level of investment represents the third highest level of repair and improvement spending per house in Scotland.
“We are continuing to ensure our rent levels are amongst the lowest in Scotland and that tenants rents are invested in ensuring that our properties are improved and meet national standards for quality and energy efficiency.”
Falkirk Council rents are currently the fifth lowest local authority rent in Scotland. Rents levels are set to increase by 3.6 per cent bringing the average weekly rent to £59.71.
This follows a wide ranging consultation with tenants that saw more that saw 80 per cent of respondents say they were satisfied or very satisfied with Falkirk Council as their landlord.
Despite finding more than £108m of budget savings over the past decade, the council said that the most recent settlement with Scottish Government has left it needing to identify a further £7m on top of its already identified £18m to be found in 2016/17.
Savings are being identified across a range of services and have been identified following public consultation and an in-depth examination of what they can potentially mean for local communities.
Councillor Craig Martin, leader of Falkirk Council said: “The savings that we have to find are without a doubt going to impact locally.
“We have done everything we can to identify the highest at risk groups and protect them as far as possible but when you are faced with year on year reductions in government funding and the freezing of council tax, it is inevitable that some services will be reduced or removed completely.
“We have involved the public and communities in our budget consultation over what areas they see are priorities and where services should be protected however, it hasn’t always been possible to achieve this.
“With around three quarters of our budget being spent across Education and Social Work, there isn’t an option but to take a close look at areas of spending across these services.
“We fund dozens of local organisations and community groups to help them support local activities on the ground and while we have preserved funding for many of these groups, some will see a reduction in the amount of support they receive.
“We are looking very closely at the workforce levels that we have also – they represent around 60 per cent of our costs currently and where possible we have sought to reduce numbers through voluntary settlements, a recruitment freeze and redeployment. We are also undertaking massive efficiency improvements in how we deliver services in the future.
“This has been the hardest budget Falkirk Council has ever had to set and we will do everything we can to ensure that the effects it has across our area are kept to an absolute minimum though communities should be prepared to see some radical changes to services provided.”
Full information is available on the council’s budget pages.