East Renfrewshire has to plug £9.5m funding gap

Council tax is set to rise by 3.5 per cent and jobs could be cut as East Renfrewshire prepares to plug a £9.5m budget gap.
East Renfrewshire Council will set its budget tomorrow (Thursday)East Renfrewshire Council will set its budget tomorrow (Thursday)
East Renfrewshire Council will set its budget tomorrow (Thursday)

The tax increase would bring in an extra £2.1m while £5.2m is expected to be taken from reserves, leaving the council to find £2.2m of “very difficult” savings.

Cuts of £500,000 to roads and winter maintenance budgets are proposed while £583,000 could be taken from an education fund to help low achievers.

Council leader Tony Buchanan said the equivalent of 36 full-time roles could go, but there will be no compulsory redundancies.

He added the council will continue to push for fairer funding of local government as a report revealed the spending gap for next year could hit £16.5m.

Councillors will meet tomorrow (Thursday) to set the local authority’s budget for the coming financial year. The majority of East Renfrewshire Council’s income comes from the Scottish Government grant, which is £207.7m this year.

It has risen from an original £205.5m settlement, allowing the council to withdraw “the most severe savings.”

Proposed savings include £90,000 from community warden “reductions” and £83,000 from a drop in modern apprenticeships funding.

Almost £100,000 could be saved from an IT restructure and £33,000 from a review of the chief executive’s office team.

School meal prices could increase, bringing in £30,000, and £10,000 is to be raised through increased Duke of Edinburgh charges.

Around 60 per cent of the budget is ring fenced for national initiatives, which Councillor Buchanan said “gives us a lot less flexibility on where to make savings.”

The council tax rise would mean a Band D household will pay £1,335.11 in 2022 to 2023, up from £1,289.96.

Councillor Buchanan said the proposal had not been “made lightly and everyone in the administration is acutely aware of the cost of living crisis.”

He pointed out 3.5 per cent is “significantly below the rate of inflation” and East Renfrewshire’s council tax bands are “expected to remain around the Scottish average.”

A £150 cost of living payment from the Scottish Government to households in tax bands A to D and those who get income-related council tax reductions will help “almost half of all of the households in East Renfrewshire.”

Most of the budget gap is set to be covered by the council’s reserves, which Councillor Buchanan said are “there for a rainy day.”

He also said the reduction in staff would mainly be through “unfilled posts” and “certainly none of it will be compulsory redundancies.”

There could be £25,000 saved from a review of admin and clerical support staff and £17,000 from a reduction in adult learning staffing. The council expects to raise £186,000 through changes to recycling contracts, which will boost income.

Councillor Buchanan said a five-year roads investment programme would continue despite the £500,000 cuts to roads and winter maintenance budget.

He said some of the savings are “technological”, such as temperature sensors which identify the roads which “freeze quickest”.

Additional Scottish Government money will be targeted at attainment levels in schools, partly offsetting the savings in the education budget.

Councillor Buchanan added the council committed to delivering a wide range of ambitious projects including a new Neilston learning campus, a leisure centre and theatre in Eastwood Park, as well as improvements to council houses.