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Unavoidable cuts as Council closes remaining £8.3m budget gap for 2024/25

today7 March, 2024 2

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Unavoidable cuts to services will have a lasting impact on West Dunbartonshire communities, the area’s Council Leader said last night.

Members gathered to discuss how to plug the remaining £8.3million budget gap, after agreeing early savings of £2.3million late last year.

Savings agreed at the meeting include a £60 charge introduced for the collection of garden waste; a reduction in funding available through community budgeting; and the removal of £14,000 grant funding to the Loch Lomond Highland Games event.

In addition, school crossing patroller locations will reduce in line with national guidance, breakfast clubs will be replaced with early start clubs chargeable for any pupil not entitled to a free school meal, and a saving will be made by replacing six underutilised grass pitches with three new 4G pitches.

Other savings include a change to a four-day opening for Clydebank Town Hall and revisions to the way road defects are treated to ensure repairs last longer.

As part of the budget meeting, members also agreed to freeze Council Tax for residents.

During the meeting, Council Leader, Councillor Martin Rooney made it clear the savings had to be taken in order to continue delivering services residents relied on most.

Acknowledging the impact of agreed cuts, he pledged to use existing funding set aside for Cost of Living initiatives to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in the area.

This will take the form of four new funds which direct support for the benefit of West Dunbartonshire.

The Youth Success Fund will provide grants to assist local charities and not-for-profit organisations to deliver initiatives developed with and for young people aged up to 18. The £100,000 Fund will provide one off grants to support projects, activities and services in our area which build the confidence, capacity, skills and resilience of your young people.

The £250,000 Community Success Fund will help and support community organisations impacted by the savings which the Council is having to make and give them time to develop plans, business cases, lease or asset transfer requests and seek alternative funding to ensure their long term future.

And the £250,000 Community Sports Success Capital Fund will provide capital grants to sports groups and organisations interested in pursuing community ownership to enhance sporting facilities in the area and support and increase opportunities for communities to be physically active.

In addition, a General Capital Community Success Fund of £150,000 will be open to community groups who wish to undertake capital works that cannot be met by the above funding streams.

The Council also committed to providing £500,000 of matched capital funding to the proposed Community Sports Facility at Millburn; £75,000 of matched capital funding to Holm Park Community Football Academy Accessibility Project; £12,000 from Cost of Living revenue funding to Lomond Food Pantry over the next four years to supplement food donations; and a further £12,000 from Cost of Living revenue funding to support the activities of Time for Tully over the next four years.

Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels have also been awarded £32,000 from the Cost of Living Capital fund for building improvements at Napier Hallwhich include the supply and fit utilities gas, electricity and plumbing to be completed in advance of the planned major extension project.

Councillor Rooney said: “This has truly been the most difficult budget of my career to date. None of us took on the role of councillor to make decisions like these but unfortunately – as a result of rapidly reducing funding from the Scottish Government alongside increased costs  –  we have been left with absolutely no choice.

“The savings options agreed today were not taken lightly, but after careful deliberation, these were the best available options, allowing us to protect vital Council services and jobs.

“We recognise any cuts to services will have a lasting impact on our communities and that is why for the past year I have called upon the Scottish Government to give us fairer funding. Instead, we have received a real-terms cut to core funding.

“For us, considering the struggles we know so many of our residents face, freezing Council tax was the only responsible decision.

“Our priority and focus remains on providing additional support for residents hardest hit by the rising cost of living, and by utilising existing funding, we will be able to direct assistance towards our most vulnerable.”

Depute Council Leader, Councillor Michelle McGinty, who is also Chair of the Council’s cross-party Cost of Living working group, said: “Under funding has put us in the extremely difficult position of having to choose which cuts are more palatable, when in reality we know each and every one will have an impact. It’s natural that the focus of these budget decisions will be on what has been cut, but this budget has also saved a number of services and facilities.

“In addition, the introduction of our new funds, introduced utilising Cost of Living funding, will help us build a sustainable future for our area, and demonstrates our continued focus on making practical support and assistance available to those who need it most.”

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Written by: office@lomondradio.co.uk

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