Falkirk Budget: 4% Council Tax rise and string of possible cuts on cards
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With a £29 million budget deficit to bridge, councillors have been warned they are facing very difficult decisions.
And cuts could include scrapping the council’s pest control service, cutting funding for school transport, reducing the budget for school cleaning, losing public toilets and ending the provision of free dog poo bags.
Budget papers show that in a bid to reduce the gap, the SNP administration is proposing to use the maximum £5 million of reserves, leaving them with the allowed minimum of £7.5 million.
Other additional grants and a change to loan payments will also help to plug the gap – but it will still leave a substantial deficit.
As a minority administration, the SNP will need the backing of at least one other political group or all three of the the council’s independents to get the budget through.
That means that none of the budget proposals are set in stone – but councillors have been told there is not much room for manoeuvre.
Options on the table include charging £20 a year for brown bin collections – starting in July – and reintroducing a charge for special uplifts.
There are also plans to cut the hours that the council’s waste recycling centres are open – either by having Roughmute and Kinneil close on alternate Mondays or reducing the overall hours and introducing an electronic booking system.
The council’s pest control service – which was scrapped then restored – is also targeted for closure again.
Other cuts include stopping – or charging for – free provision of dog poo bags, cutting lollipop patrols, closing public toilets and cutting funding for Christmas lights.
The charity Barnardo’s, which works with families in difficulties, could also see funding cut by £100,000.
School meals, breakfast clubs, lets and childcare could face a rise of three per cent.
But there is also a chance that school breakfast clubs could be scrapped and school lets drastically reduced.
Education budgets could also be hit – including a suggestion that reducing the level of cleaning in schools would save £300,000.
School transport could be affected with a proposal to increase the qualifying distance for primary and secondary pupils.
Overall bus services could also be affected as subsidies and support could be reduced or stopped altogether.
Drivers would impacted by charges for station car parks at Polmont, Larbert and Falkirk High.
Councillors were warned in a recent audit that they would have to be prepared to take tough decisions more quickly – and they should not rely on using reserves to bridge any gaps.
But they have also been told by Finance Minister Kate Forbes that sitting on large reserves is not appropriate.
Given the scale of the gap between income and expenditure, the administration is proposing to use £5 million from the reserves.
That comes with a warning that those funds may been needed in the event of any future settlements regarding historic child abuse claims as well as any weather-related storm and flooding damage.
If all of the options are agreed, the council will lose around 44 full-time equivalent jobs.