Council agrees budget

Thursday 15 March 2018

Inverclyde Council has agreed its budget for the coming financial year.

At a meeting today (15 March 2018), councillors agreed a budget for 2018/19.

The proposals put forward by the labour, independent, conservative and liberal democrat groups of the council aimed to plug a funding gap of just over £3m.  The council agreed to over £3m of savings and charges increases and to nearly £6m of investments in services.

The council will be permanently increasing the school clothing grant to £90, providing free sanitary products in schools to address the issue of period poverty and investing additional money in a plan to create a new tennis facility.

Among the additional investments totalling £5.8m will be:

  • £1.3m investment for facilities including Lady Octavia Sports Centre (£470,000) and Boglestone Community Centre (£830,000).The council also plans to invest an additional £150,000 in developing a new tennis facility in Inverclyde to bring the council contribution to the project to £500,000.
  • £850,000 to fund replacement cremators at Greenock crematoria
  • £500,000 to fund an action plan geared towards promoting repopulation measures to attract people to Inverclyde.

The budget also proposes an ambitious three-year capital programme covering the period 2018-2021 with investment of just over £68m, with £21m to be invested in our education estate. Projects for this period include:

  • £5.8m on the refurbishment and extension of St Mary's Primary School
  • £1.6m on an extension to Gourock Primary School
  • £1m on refurbishing Hillend Children’s Centre
  • £350,000 on the upgrade of Larkfield Children’s Centre

The council carried out a budget consultation earlier this year on a range of savings and charges increase proposals.

The budget has taken some of the proposals including:

  • £159,000 reduction in economic and regeneration funding for urban regeneration company Riverside Inverclyde (ri)
  • An increase in all day parking charges in council-owned car parks from £1 to £2 expected in increase income by £42,000
  • Introduce a £2.50 weekly charge for community alarms to bring the council into line with other Scottish councils.
  • Free swimming for over 60s will also be withdrawn saving £77,000 and the management fee paid by the council to arms-length organisation Inverclyde Leisure will be reduced by £102,000 on condition that any subsequent average increase in prices is limited to 2.5 per cent.

In total just over £1m in budget savings from the recent budget consultation will be taken as part of the council budget for 2018/19.

The council will also be taking nearly £2m in savings delivered through a range of reviews and restructures which have already been agreed by the council’s service committees.  This includes a management restructure carried out by the council’s Chief Executive which is expected to save £675,000.

Inverclyde Council Leader, Councillor Stephen  McCabe, said: “This is the eleventh time I have moved budget proposals as Council Leader and I have to say it doesn’t get any easier with age.

“Despite the better than expected settlement from the Scottish Government – which was due in no short measure to the pressure exerted by COSLA, trade unions and opposition political parties – we are left with a budget gap of £3.175m to close for financial year 2018/19.

“If the Government had agreed to fund pay awards for our staff in the same way they are funding pay awards for their own civil servants our budget gap would now be £75,000.

 “The priority this year has been to minimise the number of posts that will be lost by the council. The proposals will, nevertheless, result in a net reduction of 47 full-time equivalent posts by the time all the savings are fully implemented. This will bring to over 600 the number of full-time equivalent posts lost in this council alone since March 2009.

“The council will be making significant investments in our communities thanks to the good and careful management of resources which has been a hallmark of the council and one highlighted in the recent best value assurance inspection.

“We will be making a further allocation of £200,000 to support our dementia and autism strategies.  We will be increasing the school clothing grant to £90 and are also allocating £22,000 a year to provide free sanitary products in our schools to address the issue of period poverty.

“As council tax bills this week start to drop through letterboxes it is important to remember the additional funding from the council agreed in December to remove the council tax liability for care leavers.  It is important that we target our resources where possible to those most in need and this support continues our corporate parent role to young people starting out in life outside of care.”

The cross-party proposal agreed by the Council was supported by the council’s labour, independent, conservative and liberal democrat groups.

Speaking on behalf of the independent group, Councillor Ronnie Ahlfeld, who seconded the budget proposals for 2018/19 said: “The local elections last year introduced a new dynamic to this council with the election of four Independent members.  It is vitally important to us that individually we maintain our Independent status but also are represented fully at council committees.

“This budget has been extremely challenging and there are aspects which we all agree are difficult decisions.  Collectively we have tried to protect the most vulnerable in our communities and protect jobs.

“I am delighted that in the year of young people, we have been able to maintain our support to youth sports and we have maintained our support to employability programs.  These are absolutely vital in directing young people into employment.  The continued season extension of Gourock pool and the maintenance of the hours at Port Glasgow pool will be welcomed and it is important to note that the reduction to Inverclyde Leisure funding limits the level of increases in their pricing policy.”

Inverclyde’s council tax was set last month. The decision was made at the council meeting on 22 February 2018 and now means Inverclyde 'band D' council tax will be set at £1,233.94. an increase of three per cent.

Page last updated: 22 March 2018