Tough decisions ahead as Falkirk Council has to find £10m of savings

Falkirk councillors will be asked to find savings of £10 million in the year ahead, giving them tough decisions to make at the annual budget meeting.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 4:20 pm

The meeting, which had been scheduled for February 24, will now go ahead on March 3, when councillors are expected to approve a council tax freeze.

Members of the council's executive, which met on Tuesday, agreed to the delay in the hope that more information will be available as both the Scottish or UK Governments has yet to set their budgets.

The situation means a huge amount of uncertainty, but there are a few things that look likely to happen.

Falkirk Council

In particular, it seems almost certain that Falkirk will accept the council tax freeze that the Scottish Government cash is asking for.

The council has also welcomed what it says is an "surprisingly generous" £7.5 million from Holyrood to help it deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic which has had a massive impact on both income and expenditure.

The Scottish Government claims it is offering councils a cash increase in core grant of £335m (3%).

COSLA, however, argues that once ring-fenced commitments of £241 million

are deducted the core funding has actually increased by £94m (1%).

That financial position is further complicated by the additional covid grant and funding to support a council tax freeze.

Locally, the Scottish Government is also giving the IJB - the board in charge of health and social care - an additional £2 million.

Despite the huge uncertainties, finance chief Bryan Smail told councillors that it looked likely that they would still have to find savings to close the funding gap.

That remains at £24 million but councillors will be making decisions on how to find around £10 million.

When they vote on March 3, they will be selecting from a 'menu' of potential cuts and changes.

Options include charging for brown bin uplifts; getting rid of free special uplifts; closing community education centres; cutting breakfast clubs or any number of options if the political parties can reach agreement.

It also means pressing on with projects that need investment to modernise services but will reduce staffing - by far the council's biggest cost.

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