South Ayrshire Councillors today (25 June 2015) gave the green light to budget savings of more than £4.7 million for the next three financial years and agreed that local people and communities will be asked for their views on a further £1.6 million of budget savings proposals.
The decision means more than £9.3 million of efficiency savings have been identified by the Council for 2016/17-2018/19, with Councillors approving savings of £4.55 million for the next financial year in December 2014.
This leaves the Council with a further £7.5 million of estimated savings to find over the next three years, based on the Council's Financial Strategy. With levels of Scottish Government funding for this period not yet known, the strategy anticipates the need – before today's Council decision – for a further £4.2 million savings for 2016/17, £6.4 million for 2017/18 and £6.2 million for 2018/19.
The savings approved by Councillors today include more than £1.7 million of 'management actions' such as reducing budget allocations to reflect current or required levels of spending.
Management actions include a £491,000 reduction in the budget to reflect falling school rolls; a reduction of £150,000 in the central budget to support certain teaching staff costs (such as funding additional staff to support new initiatives); an increase in planning and building warrant fee income of £150,000 to reflect increases in the number of applications being received annually; and a saving of £257,897 through the termination of the existing payroll maintenance contract, which is being replaced by a new system.
Also approved – although there will be further development of these before they are implemented – was another £3 million of savings. This includes:
- A reduction of £800,000 in the cost of supported living for people with learning disabilities by reviewing the level of 24 hour support provided, the care arrangements in place and creating a new shared accommodation facility.
- Reducing spending from the Central Repairs Account by £300,000 to reflect better targeting of the repairs work programme, the major capital investment ongoing in schools and less need for a reactive service.
- A saving of £250,000 by reviewing centrally-based educational services staff.
- Saving £75,000 by reducing the number of vehicles used to sweep the streets and collect commercial waste – this will be done by using vehicles on a 'double shift' basis, meaning they are used more hours per day.
- A review of how often the Council collects different household waste bins to reduce costs by £80,000 as well as the amount of waste that goes to landfill.
In addition, Councillors will be seeking the views of people and communities across South Ayrshire on proposals totalling £1.6 million – that means the Council will consider what the public think of these proposals before any final decisions are made.
The savings proposals communities will be asked for their views on are:
- Ensure people get most appropriate care by balancing use of nursing and residential care to reflect support required: £600,000 saving
- Review support available to older people for unscheduled care – the care that we don't yet know that people will need – to make best use of resources, put measures in place to reduce likelihood of hospital admissions and improve outcomes: £500,000
- Reduce centrally-held Curriculum for Excellence and Determined to Succeed budgets, which support purchase of relevant materials: £150,000
- Increase bereavement charges for burial and cremation: £82,000
- Burial (including lair purchase): £1,226 (current), £1,348 (proposed 2016/17), £1,388 (proposed 2017/18)
- Cremation: £635 (current), £743 (proposed 2016/17), £773 (proposed 2017/18)
- Reduce school-based Curriculum for Excellence budget, which supports the purchase of relevant materials: £60,000
- Reduce programme of primary school swimming lessons to reflect a more targeted approach: £40,000
- Reduce Scheme of Assistance budget for improvement works in mixed tenure blocks (where both Council tenants and private owner-occupiers live), by making less grants available to private owners: £30,000
- Increase swimming lesson fee (£3.60 to proposed £5.33 per lesson) to reflect a modernised and enhanced programme with reduced class sizes, lower waiting lists, and extra classes, which supports progression through different swimming levels, includes badges and certificates and unlimited free swimming throughout the programme for those taking swimming lessons (would also include a direct debit payment option): £30,000
- Increase sharing of Head Teachers in small schools: £25,000
- Remove school transport provision from Maybole Road, which is outwith the statutory guidelines: £25,000
- Introduce charge for administering school funds: £20,000
- Review the Anti-Social Behaviour Team: £20,000
- Introduce proposed charges of between £10-£50 for pre-application planning advice to reflect level of support required such as letter, meeting or site visit: £20,000.
Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: "Getting the most out of our money is something we all try to achieve and our priority is to ensure that every pound we spend makes a difference for the people and communities of South Ayrshire.
"That's a real challenge as we only have a limited amount of money to spend and there's lots of demands for the services we provide, so it's vital we make the right decisions about where our money goes. The savings agreed today help us do just that by making sure we can balance the budget while protecting – as far as possible – the frontline services that make such a difference to the people of South Ayrshire.
"We understand the impact the decisions we make have on those people and that's why we're seeking the views of our communities on the savings proposals that will have a more direct impact on them – for example, by changing what level of service we deliver or the cost of delivering that service.
"I would encourage as many people as possible to let us know what they think and we will take these views on board before making any further decisions to ensure we continue to deliver the best possible services with the resources available."
Councillor John McDowall, Depute Leader of the Council, added: "Determining where and how we spend the money available to us is the most important decision we make as Councillors and it's not a decision we take lightly. We've worked to put our money where it matters most and where it can make the biggest difference for people. I'm pleased our communities will have the chance to input into that process and let us know what they think of identified savings proposals before any further decisions are made."
Councillor Robin Reid, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance, concluded: "Like every Council, we have to live within our means and our focus has been to make sure we're running our services in the most efficient way and looking at where we can make the necessary cuts in costs with minimum impact on frontline service delivery. That's difficult, and it will only get more difficult as time goes on. But I'm confident we've done what we can to achieve that and I look forward to hearing the views of our communities before we make any further decisions."
Plans for gathering community views on identified savings proposals are currently being finalised. In the meantime, any comments or views regarding the budget savings can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final decisions regarding these proposals will be made later in the year as part of the 2016/17 and 2017/18 budget setting process. At that time, Councillors will also consider the uncommitted draft reserve balance – the reserves that have not been allocated for projects such as investment in ICT or to support new ways of working, or repairs and renewals.
The uncommitted general reserves balance – the monies not allocated for specific pieces of work – currently sits at almost £15.22 million, which is 5.8% of the 2015/16 budget. In line with the Council's Financial Strategy, the Council is only required to maintain uncommitted reserves of between 2% and 4% or £5.23 million and £10.46 million.
Councillors will therefore consider the level of reserves it wants to maintain above 2% (£5.23 million) and the use of any additional funds that are then available for investment.
Full details of the savings and proposals agreed today are available here.