West Dunbartonshire Council rejects all savings options to protect frontline services

Council leader Martin Rooney
Council leader Martin Rooney

West Dunbartonshire Council has approved a plan to reject all savings options and use cash reserves to plug the gap caused by reduced Scottish Government funding.

Council leader Martin Rooney presented proposals last month which would close the predicted budget gap of around £2 million and secure frontline services for local residents in the year ahead.

The move means that savings options identified by senior managers such as removing weekend litter collection and reducing grants to voluntary groups, and also those developed by the Health and Social Care Partnership, will not be taken.

Councillor Rooney said: “We’ve generated reserves through sound financial management, and will use these to protect residents from the brunt of funding reductions. I don’t want our communities and service users worrying over Christmas about whether the vital services they receive will be reduced and can confirm now that we will not be taking any of the savings options put forward.”

In addition to the commitment to reject savings options, the council also agreed to provide £10,000 to Food For Thought and a further £10,000 to West Dunbartonshire Foodshare to support their efforts to help vulnerable residents. A commitment was also made to provide £50,000 a year to the Antonine Sports Centre in Duntocher, for the next 10 years to help support plans to develop and enhance the facility.

Councillors heard at last month’s meeting that the funding the council is receiving from the Scottish and UK government for 2017/18 is predicted to be £6.2m less than in 2016/17.

Council managers have already reduced this deficit by identifying measures which can be taken internally to operate more efficiently such as reducing postage costs and reviewing training budgets.

Councillor Rooney added: “The challenges our area faces are well documented in terms of deprivation, health and unemployment, but this has not been reflected in our allocation from the UK and Scottish Governments. The reduction in the level of funding is unprecedented but we will not allow this to impact on our valuable frontline services, or our residents. Come February we will be setting a budget which does not require cuts to the valuable frontline services our residents rely on.”

West Dunbartonshire has cash reserves to protect the organisation from unexpected costs.

The use of reserves mean the budget will not include any of the savings options and as a result there will be no public budget consultation.

The formal budget setting will take place in February as planned.

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