Thing are going to get even tougher for Falkirk

Council leader Craig Martin said his administration could be forced to cut as much as £15 million from public services in Falkirk next year as a result of last week’s budget announcement.

The Labour councillor is preparing the council for even more drastic efficiency measures following on from cuts of £18.5m over the last two years.

Mr Martin said: “The council will be facing a very challenging budget process in the coming months given the underlying spend pressures coming through from the likes of inflation allied to constrained resources placed on us by the SNP government.

“Falkirk Council has had to make £18.5m savings in the last two budgets, taking very difficult decisions, but being able to retain vital core services and supporting local communities.

“However, over the next two years this will become even more difficult, depending on the final detailed settlement, next year’s gap alone could be between £10-15m. It will be December before we get detailed figures for Falkirk Council.

“Moreover, the council is just starting its budget process, and it will be through this that service issues and priorities are determined, culminating in a final budget in February.”

Leader of the Falkirk SNP Group, Councillor David Alexander, is unsurprisingly more upbeat about the budget, and is calling for the council’s Labour administration to manage the budget better to cushion the blow on the public.

He said: “Falkirk Council underspent its budget by 1.5 per cent last year. That doesn’t give me the impression of a council under severe pressure. I think Cllr Martin is being a bit premature in his estimations.

“Falkirk got the second best settlement in Scotland last year and we expect something similar this year.

“It’s perhaps time this current administration at the council began to use some of the recent high reserves in order to protect local services in a time of Draconian Westminster cuts.”

Mr Martin has also issued concern over Scottish Government plans to cut local government’s capital grant by £220m over a two-year period, which will mean less investment in new local services.

Cosla’s finance spokesman Councillor Kevin Keenan said: “This will mean that local capital plans will have to slip in favour of national priorities and this will have real impact locally.

“Borrowing has been mentioned to make up the shortfall, but this is not a cost-free option to local government and will have to be funded from resources that are already stretched to provide core services.”