South Lanarkshire Council agrees to delay tough budget decisions for 2024-25
South Lanarkshire councillors have agreed to delay making tough decisions on next year’s budget to allow residents and service users to have their say.
Continuing the debate on the council’s finances for 2024-25 will also mean decisions can be taken after full details have been received of funding from the Scottish Government.
The Executive Committee was told that current figures show a remaining budget gap after measures of £20.7 million, with another £21.9m to bridge in 2025-26. Over the next four years, the total shortfall is estimated at £95.8m.
Council leader Joe Fagan said: “Local authorities have been underfunded for years and South Lanarkshire has already had to cut £142m in the last decade. Despite our pleas for fair funding, we now find ourselves facing yet more cuts.
“We have to balance our budget, so council officers have developed savings options for councillors to consider. Few, if any, of these options will be easy to accept – and indeed no political groups have as yet said they would agree to them. But we will have to make decisions by February.
“It helps that more than 2000 people have already told us what they think in an initial survey, and there will now be a second public consultation where residents, service users and council workers can give us their views about specific savings options.
“Make no mistake, due to under-funding some very difficult choices will have to be made. But we will only make them when we know the views of local people.”
The report to the Executive Committee noted that the 2024-25 budget gap had reduced from £29.2m to £20.7m, partly as a result of using one-off monies that will be made available through a reduction in employer contributions required to the Strathclyde Pension Fund.
To help bridge the remaining gap, £3.3m in management and operational savings have already been identified. A further 42 savings options totalling £15.3m were tabled for Elected Members to consider.
The report did not include any options on Council Tax as the First Minister has announced a freeze for 2024-25 and local authorities are waiting for details of how, and to what level, that policy would be funded.
All Elected Members have been provided with the results of the initial budget consultation, which ran for a month and ended on 10 November.
It showed just 19% of the 2114 respondents backed a 0% Council Tax increase. Of those who supported an increase, the largest proportion – 33% – favoured 5%. In total, 56% of those who supported an increase opted for between 5% and 10%.
The consultation also showed strong support for the council’s priorities and an understanding of the budget pressures being faced. Respondents identified their own priority areas, notably schools and social care for both adults and children.
Details of how to take part in the second phase of consultation, including how to give views on specific savings options, will be published soon.