£4m council savings agreed

COUNCILLORS in Inverclyde have unanimously agreed over £4 million worth of savings, including the loss of more than 15 full-time equivalent jobs.

A special meeting of Inverclyde Council took place yesterday, Thursday 15 December 2022, and a £3.4m package of cutbacks was unanimously agreed.

On top of cost-cutting that has already been made so far, it takes the pre-Christmas savings over the original £4m target approved by councillors earlier this year towards addressing an estimated £16.2m funding gap facing the council over the 2023/25 period.

The savings agreed yesterday will mean the loss of 15.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) jobs, reductions to services, increased fees and charges, and savings from other budget areas.

It was also agreed that a range of savings proposals relating to the council’s arms-length leisure trust, Inverclyde Leisure, will now go out to public consultation in January 2023.

These savings proposals include a voluntary redundancy trawl, potential closures of some leisure and community facilities, and reduced opening times. The full savings proposals, if taken, would mean the loss of 23 FTE jobs and total savings of £712,000.

Councillor Stephen McCabe, leader of Inverclyde Council, said: “Cutting jobs, reducing services, increasing charges and fees, and looking at potential closures and job losses at leisure facilities gives me nor any of my fellow councillors any joy whatsoever.

“In fact, it’s the complete opposite. We are all incredibly disappointed in indeed troubled by the latest round of cuts.

“The simple truth is that years of underfunding of Scottish councils has forced our hand. We have a legal obligation to produce a balanced budget and simply there is no more fat left to trim to allow us to do that.

“What this means is that we have been forced to make tough decisions that nobody wants to make and those are cutting jobs, services and increasing charges and fees.

“At a time when we should be investing in Inverclyde – something we have been campaigning hard for directly with the Scottish and UK governments through our socio-economic task force – we are instead faced with more cuts that will have a direct impact on the people of this area.”

The Scottish Government also published its 2023/24 budget, including the local government settlement, yesterday and local authorities are awaiting further information to find out what that means for each council area but early indications suggest it will not be enough to plug the funding gap.

The exact level of funding for Inverclyde, once known, will impact the council’s budget setting process in the new year and any requirement for additional savings.

Councillor McCabe said: “I am extremely disappointed with the budget settlement for local government and with its misleading presentation. 

“Of the supposed £550m of additional funding for local government, £479m is for existing commitments leaving only £71m of uncommitted funding. This will not meet the gap in council funding of £612m identified by COSLA, which is due to inflation, energy prices and demand pressures, and the requirement for more than £400m for pay settlements in the coming year to address recruitment and retention issues and avoid further understandable industrial action by trade unions.

“This budget settlement means another massive real-terms cut in councils’ core funding, after more than 10 years of real terms cuts, and will lead to socially harmful cuts to vital local services, the loss of jobs, increases in charges and an increase in Council Tax.

“The government need to think again.”

The full report, ‘2023/25 Budget Update & Proposals’, outlining the savings and Inverclyde Leisure proposals is available on the council website at: www.inverclyde.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/2514.

Yesterday’s council meeting is also available to watch on the council’s YouTube channel at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-v0BGEoRoI.