West Dunbartonshire savings options to be presented to council

West_Dunbartonshire_CouncilA range of options which would save West Dunbartonshire Council up to £4 million in financial year 2018/19 and close a predicted budget shortfall is set to be presented to councillors.

A report to the full council meeting on December 20 will outline proposals to address the difference between the funding the council receives from government and council tax and the money it needs to deliver its current services.

A decision has already been made to consult the public on the proposals, and their views will help to inform councillors before the budget for 2018/19 is approved at a meeting in February.

Every council in Scotland is facing similar tough decisions and when considering the options, officers have prioritised protecting the frontline services most relied upon by residents.

The savings options detailed in the report include changes to education services, cleansing, events and greenspaces.

Among the proposals is an option to bring Educational Maintenance Allowance payments (EMA) in line with the Scottish standard rate. West Dunbartonshire currently pays double the average, and this change would save £164,000 per year. Another option is to align the school clothing grant with the national average, saving a further £240,000 a year.

Changing the frequency of street cleaning will also be considered, with annual savings of between £35,000 and £335,000 possible depending on which option is preferred. Savings could be made at the council-owned Dalmuir Golf Course, with increased membership charges, a reduction from 18 to nine holes and closure of the course all among the potential options saving up to £200,000 per year.

Councillor Ian Dickson, convener of corporate services, said: “Setting the budget is the most difficult task facing any council, especially in times of financial hardship. We only have so much money available to spend and are conscious of the need to protect those services that matter most to our residents and ensure our most vulnerable citizens continue to be fully supported.

“Council officers have identified a number of areas where savings could be achieved and as an Administration we will now consider these and develop a draft budget including the options we would be prepared to take. That draft budget will then be put forward for residents to give us their views and then the council can use that feedback to inform decisions at the budget setting meeting in February.”

Council leader Jonathan McColl added: “I want to stress that no decisions have been made on any of these savings options. The consultation which will launch in January is an opportunity for residents to be fully involved in this process and let us know which options are most acceptable to them. I would encourage everyone in our community to give us their feedback as this will ensure councillors make the right choices when it comes to setting the budget in February.”

The online consultation will launch in January and remain open for several weeks, with the results presented to the council budget meeting on February 21.

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