South Ayrshire Council has agreed a further £1.6 million budget savings for 2016/17-2018/19 after seeking community views on specific proposals earlier in the year.
The decision by Councillors means that almost £11 million of savings have now been identified for this three-year period, with a number of difficult decisions still to come – particularly with a significant reduction in the proposed funding allocation for 2016/17 from the Scottish Government.
The Council had estimated a gap of more than £20 million between available funding and the costs to deliver Council services between 2016/17-2018/19, but this figure will now need to be revised in light of the Scottish Government's draft budget announced on 16 December.
Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of the Council, said: "I was encouraged by the response from our communities to our proposals for balancing our budget, which was, overall, supportive – and my thanks to everyone who took the time to put forward their views. This was an important part of our efforts to do as much as possible with the monies available to us. However, the task of trying to deliver that balanced budget is now a lot more difficult with a significant reduction in both our revenue and capital funding for the next year.
"This reduction means some very difficult decisions ahead for every one of our Councillors –decisions that will undoubtedly impact on our people and communities with possible closures and cuts in services. We're still digesting the details of our proposed funding, so we don't yet know what it will mean in practice, but we do know it will have an effect and it will not be easy."
Councillor Robin Reid, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance, added: "Getting the most out of our money and delivering best value is something we strive to achieve day in and day out. With the reduction in the funding we will receive, our ability to do that is now a great deal harder and, without a doubt, our communities will be affected in a real and significant way. We need to be realistic and up front about that while continuing to do all we can to mitigate the impact, and that's exactly what we will do."
Councillor John McDowall, Depute Leader of the Council, said: "The decisions we have to take as a Council will only get more and more difficult as budgets are continually cut, our costs continually rise and the demand for our support and services continues to grow. Quite simply, we can't keep doing what we're doing and that's why the input from our communities is so important, as we work to deliver savings that impact on their everyday lives. My thanks to all those who let us know what they thought and I hope more and more people take part in future as increased opportunities to influence the decisions we make as the people elected to serve our communities become available."
The budget savings agreed by South Ayrshire Council on 17 December 2015 following consideration of community views and feedback in proposals agreed in June 2015 are:
- £600,000 saving through making less use of nursing care and more use of residential care to reflect support required by older people.
- £500,000 saving through making best use of resources for unscheduled care for older people – the care that we don't yet know that they will need – and reducing hospital admissions.
- £150,000 saving by reducing centrally-held Curriculum for Excellence and Determined to Succeed budgets, which support the purchase of schools' materials for new courses that have been developed.
- £82,000 saving by increasing bereavement charges for burial and cremation.
- £60,000 saving by reducing school-based Curriculum for Excellence budgets.
- £40,000 saving by taking a more targeted approach to primary school swimming lessons.
- £30,000 saving by making less grant funding available to private owners through the Scheme of Assistance budget for improvement works in blocks where both Council tenants and private owner-occupiers live.
- £30,000 saving by increasing the swimming lesson fee, reducing class sizes and waiting lists, and introducing extra classes and unlimited free swimming for those taking part in a swimming lesson programme.
- £25,000 saving by sharing more Head Teachers in small schools.
- £25,000 savings by removing school transport provision from Maybole Road, Ayr to Alloway Primary, which is outwith the Council criteria for free school transport and brings it in line with all other schools.
- £20,000 saving by reviewing the Anti-Social Behaviour Team.
- £20,000 saving by introducing charges for pre-application planning advice.
- £20,000 saving by introducing small charge for administering school funds for excursions, events and fundraising activities.
Details of previously agreed budget savings are available here.