At its last meeting of the year, Falkirk Council voted unanimously to keep its flagship Employment and Training Unit going - and find savings of over £1.8 million from other budgets.
The cost of maintaining the ETU which supports 1200 young job seekers a year came under review as part of a spending review.
Despite cutting the bill by nearly £365,000, it will still have cost over £4.8 million to run in 2015-16 with the council contributing £1.8 million from its revenue budget and £680,000 from the Fairer Falkirk fund. Nearly £2.4 million came in the form of externally earned income from agencies including Skills Development Scotland’s National Training Programme and the European Social Fund.
It had already been agreed to cut the level of funding from the revenue budget by £350,000 and Fairer Falkirk fund by £30,000 next year.
Councillors were told the total budget supports payments of £2.2 million to the unit’s vulnerable clients in wages and allowances.
The ETU employs 25 permanent and eight temporary staff.
They provide a range of training programmes, advice, guidance and support to young people facing barriers to finding work.
In his report Douglas Duff, head of economic development, told the council: “By developing the skills and employability of young people and other disadvantaged job seekers ETU services increase prosperity, help reduce poverty and prevent additional public sector spend on health and crime.
“It is a non-statutory service and, as such, included in the council’s options for budget savings previously considerered. The budget option extends to a total withdrawal from the delivery of employability services and closure of the unit.”
The council was told closure would save £2.1 million by 2017-18 - but cost 33 jobs.
Mr Duff warned: “It would also result in consequential job losses and impact on other council services, a withdrawal of support for around 1200 young people furthest from the labour market, including over 500 Modern Apprentices and the termination of employability support for over 800 vulnerable job seekers.”
“It would be a significant change to the delivery of employability services in the Falkirk area. It would disrupt delivery in a field that has been a high priority in terms of the policies of the council and its community planning partners.”
Councillors agreed to back the second of four options detailed in the report.
It will deliver targeted savings over the next three years, protect the level of service currently provided and allow the council to bid for external cash support worth around £2.2 million a year.
The future of the ETU had been due to be debated alongwith other savings options facing the council in February, but the need to take a decision in time for funding bids to be in place on time promoted the issue up the agenda.
Council leader Craig Martin said: “We know following the funding settlement from the Scottish Government last week that absolutely nothing is off the table, but we can be extremely proud of what the ETU has achieved and have to protect it.
“ Around 90 per cent of our school leavers find positive destinations in work, some 34 per cent above the Scottish average, and we agreed we had to do everything we could to protect that.”