Residents must embrace local authority’s new streamlined way of working

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Everyone is going to have to work together if Falkirk Council is to find £80 million of savings and continue to deliver vital services over the next five years.

That was the message council leader Cecil Meiklejohn was trying to get across to The Falkirk Herald, before a meeting of the executive committee on Tuesday, October 17.

Members will be looking at the revenue budget for 2018/19 and 2019/2020, which contains almost 100 savings suggestions, including everything from cutting school breakfast clubs to removing Christmas lights provision.

Councillor Meiklejohn said: “There are a number of options being put to members for their consideration and then going out to public consultation over the next couple of months. Our aim is to maintain and protect frontline services as much as possible.

“And we have to do that in a difficult climate when the Scottish Government settlement is cut year on year by Westminster. We have some very difficult decisions in front of us in order to present a balanced budget.

“We will still look to maintain as much of the frontline services as possible, but they may have to be delivered in a more cost effective way.”

Council staff will be briefed on the situation before and after Tuesday’s meeting, but there has already been engagement with the trade unions and it is hoped any staff reductions can be achieved through voluntary redundancy and natural wastage.

One of the most important factors that could assist the local authority when it comes to making fundamental changes to the way it delivers services are the people who receive these services.

Councillor Meiklejohn said: “We need to work with our communities and encourage them to develop community based support groups.”

One example given was members of the community becoming involved in the upkeep and maintenance of land – Councillor Meiklejohn pointing to the good work of the group currently involved in looking after the flower beds in Falkirk High Street.

The new approach also hopes to encourage customers to practice self service and self help by accessing services digitally – for instance, filling in their own council tax forms online instead of entering a council building and having to engage with staff, freeing up council personnel to focus on helping those who really need it.

Councillor Meiklejohn added: “We also want people to work with us to identify what their priorities are and what they want to see delivered in their communities. It’s clear we can’t continue to work the way we have been working.

“Our customers and our staff are the ones best placed to tell us which of our services are valued and how we can improve them. And we are happy to explore whatever options members come forward with at next week’s meeting – we will also pick up on the feedback from the consultation process.”

Information on the suggested savings will be available via the Falkirk Council website after Tuesday’s meeting.