Published 16 February 2023

A range of budget savings options will be considered by elected members next month to close the Council’s £14.6million budget gap.

The Council is facing the biggest financial challenge in its history, compounded by a range of factors including increases in inflation as well as interest on loans, utilities, fuel, materials and employee costs.

A first tranche of options were approved at a meeting of Council in December, reducing the budget gap from its initial £21million.

Now additional changes have been proposed by officers across a number of services in a second tranche to be considered by councillors.

Proposals aim to make savings while protecting those key frontline services relied on most by the community as much as possible within the confines of the available funding.

Among them is an option to carry out a review of the current community facilities provision, which has been under utilised post-pandemic. Under this option, which has the potential to achieve a saving of £257,000 in both 2023/24 and 2024/25, communities would be supported to explore taking on ownership through asset transfer.

Councillors will also consider options around the pricing structure and eligibility for the Care of Garden maintenance scheme, which has the potential to save £440,000 per annum.

In Education, consideration will be given to providing statutory education across four days, with non-curriculum led activities held for targeted groups of pupils on the fifth day within high schools. This option would generate a saving of £1.3million in 2023/24, rising to £2million in 2024/25.

And a three-weekly bin collection cycle could be introduced, which as well as improving the area’s recycling rate, would save the Council £50,000 in 2023/24, rising to £150,000 the following year.

Options to reduce the Communities and Working4U teams could generate a saving of almost £1.6million between them.

The options will be discussed and considered at a meeting of full Council on Wednesday 1 March, with no decisions taken before that date.

Council Chief Executive Peter Hessett said: “Officers have undertaken a significant amount of work while preparing these budget options, with a view to enabling the Council to deliver a balanced budget. While we all want to protect and preserve the services our communities rely on most, and have strived to minimise the impact on our communities and employees, the scale of the financial challenge is unprecedented.

“I recognise the publication of these options will be unsettling for residents who rely on services and are already experiencing challenges due to the cost of living. Sadly the Council is not immune from those same pressures: inflation, interest rates, increased fuel and utility costs, combined with the funding the Council will receive from the Scottish Government amounting to a real-terms decrease compared with 2022/23.

 “These are proposals at this stage and no decision will be made until they are considered by Councillors at the Council meeting on the 1st of March.”

Please see further details on the options being presented to Council.