Published 22 December 2022

More than £3million worth of savings have been approved as part of the first phase of West Dunbartonshire Council’s budget setting process.

The authority is facing the most significant financial challenge in its history, with the difference between the cost of running services and the funding it receives in excess of £21million for 2023/2024 with further funding gaps anticipated in future years.

At a Council meeting yesterday (WED), Elected Members were presented with a range of savings options for consideration, which were developed by officers to reduce spending.

The savings options agreed by Councillors, which will generate £3.019million in the next financial year rising to £4.042m in 2024/25, were in addition to management adjustments amounting to just under £900,000.

Operational changes agreed at the meeting include bringing mainstream school transport more in line with the statutory provision, which the Council currently exceeds, saving £200,000 in 2023/24, rising to £300,000 in future years. In addition, changes to school staffing allocation will achieve a saving of £654,000 in 2023/2024, rising to £981,000 in future years.

Changes to the opening hours of the area’s recycling centres will generate annual savings of £63,000 in 2023/24, rising to £113,000 in future years, while amendments to refuse routes will reduce the Council’s carbon footprint, and deliver an annual reduction in spending of up to £189,000.

The Council will generate income of up to £325,000 per year by introducing Council-led parking enforcement throughout the area, with an additional £360,000 over the next three years from the introduction of a charge to use Electric Vehicle Charging Points, which are currently free of charge.

A saving of £295,000 will be made from streamlining the Council’s capital projects, minimising the amount of revenue spent on funding loans.

And rationalising property assets by moving workforce into buildings with extra capacity will reduce running costs and create opportunities for lease income, saving £380,000 in 2023/2024.

A proposal to support community groups to obtain external funding to run events including fireworks and Christmas light displays was also agreed.

Out of school care services at Linnvale and St Eunan’s Primary Schools will remain open, as will the Clydebank Registration Office, after these proposals were rejected by Councillors.

The savings generated by accepting the options mean that approximately £18million will still be required for the Council to deliver a balanced budget, with a second tranche of options currently under development to be presented for consideration on March 1.

Council Leader, Councillor Martin Rooney, said: “This Council is facing the most challenging financial situation in our history and without additional funding to offset the huge increases in costs we are seeing, these impossible choices are being forced upon us.

“We have a finite amount of money and a £21million funding gap which must be addressed. So even though we know our residents are relying on us more than ever, we have been left with no choice but to reduce services, risking jobs and taking money out of our residents’ pockets at a time when they are reliant on every penny.

“The situation is bleak and we are being faced with impossible choices which will impact on our residents. We will continue to raise this with the Scottish Government and do everything we can in our powers to seek the funding we need to protect vital services and ensure the most vulnerable in our communities are shielded.”

Depute Leader, Councillor Michelle McGinty added: “Every day we see and hear about the challenges our residents are facing and yet in the midst of a cost of living crisis which is hitting the most vulnerable in our communities hardest, we have had to agree to options which impact on our services. As a Council we have a legal duty to set a balanced budget and I have to be open and transparent and say that due to the scale of this budget gap, and without additional funding, it is inevitable that further changes to service provision will have to be made.

“We will continue to highlight the dire financial position we have been left in and do everything we can help and support our residents by minimising cuts to the services they value most.“