COUNCIL BUDGET: Sowing the seeds of recovery

Council leader Craig Martin says the budget is one for families
Council leader Craig Martin says the budget is one for families

Dealing with the aftermath of “an economic tsunami” continues to be a challenge for Falkirk Council.

The waves from the banking crisis continue to hit Scotland, but Councillor Craig Martin said the determination to sow the seeds of recovery had never been stronger.

He said: “I’m convinced that in Falkirk we are turning the fiscal tide because we are doing it the ‘Falkirk Way’. Investing in the right projects, working for growth all across Falkirk and at the same time continuing to create a ‘fairer Falkirk’ by concentrating and prioritising investment in our young, our families and our elderly.

“Yes we have to make difficult decisions but when you consider the prudent management of finances which is our hallmark, we have always sought to do this with care and compassion.”

In 2013-14, Falkirk Council will spend £325.256 million providing services for its citizens.

Although the Scottish Government finance settlement of £283.117 million for Falkirk is a slight 0.62 per cent rise, the council leader said, in real terms, it was cancelled out by inflation.

The local authority was faced with a £10.7 million funding gap for the coming year. But finance chiefs warned that things will get even tougher with a further £35 million shortfall over the next three years.

To maintain the current level of government grant, the council had to sign up to maintain the council tax freeze for a sixth year and maintain teacher numbers.

Faced with the cash gap, members agreed to dip further into its reserves to balance the books. They had already agreed to take £2 million to fund the Spend to Save initiative, while £500,000 was ploughed into maintaining bus services. Now they will take another £2.3 million,

But it came with a warning from Bryan Smail, head of treasury and investment, who said: “The reserves are a financial shock absorber but using this application of reserves is not sustainable.”

Concluding his presentation to members, Mr Martin said: “Each of you will know an elderly constituent who survives from day to day through the care and compassion of our social work services, you will have members of your family who continue to benefit from our rapidly improving education service, you will be aware of a parent who relies upon our childcare provision so they can work to put food on their family’s table.

“These are the people who often don’t have a voice. These are the people who we represent here. This is a budget for them.”

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