‘We can­not wish away price hikes’

Evening Telegraph (First Edition) - - Court Reports - BY JON BRADY

A COUN­CIL fi­nance chief says he can’t “wish away” in­creases in costs for ser­vices as he pre­pares for a raft of price rises.

Coun­cil­lor Wil­lie Saw­ers out­lined key as­pects of his pro­posed 2017/18 bud­get at a spe­cial brief­ing.

Among the plans from the SNP ad­min­is­tra­tion is a 2.5% rise in coun­cil tax along with in­creases in car park­ing charges, rub­bish up­lift fees and the cost of hir­ing fa­cil­i­ties such as event halls.

In the wake of crit­i­cism that some of the fee hikes are “lu­nacy”, Mr Saw­ers in­sisted such rises were “mod­est” and ul­ti­mately un­avoid­able, as the coun­cil bids to save £12.5 mil­lion.

He said: “These charges are just part of a hun­dreds of mil­lions of pounds bud­get. Some fees have to go up — it can’t be avoided. We can’t wish away in­creases.

“There is a range of changes, and a num­ber of them are mod­est in­creases.”

He de­fended the rise in coun­cil tax, say­ing it would raise £1.3m and would cost eight out of 10 house­holds less than 60p a week.

How­ever, band E to H house­holds will have be­tween £2 and £10 more added to their coun­cil tax bills each week.

Mr Saw­ers said the money raised from coun­cil tax would go into projects like cre­at­ing 50 job op­por­tu­ni­ties in the coun­cil for young peo­ple and ef­forts to create Dun­deecom, a de­com­mis­sion­ing hub cen­tred around Dundee Port.

Mean­while, £300,000 would be made avail­able to com­bat de­layed hos­pi­tal dis­charges, cou­pled with £2.44m from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

Along­side the on­go­ing freeze in the cost of school meals, school uni­form grants would in­crease by £120,000 if Mr Saw­ers’ pro­pos­als are ap­proved next week. A fur­ther £153,000 would be put into com­mu­nity re­gen­er­a­tion funds, giv­ing res­i­dents a say in £1m worth of spend­ing across the city.

Mr Saw­ers said: “We are pro­vid­ing an im­por­tant pack­age of in­vest­ment in our city’s fu­ture. Our bud­get has no im­pact on front­line ser­vices and re­tains our pol­icy of no com­pul­sory re­dun­dan­cies.”

Doc­u­ments seen by the Tele sug­gest that the coun­cil aims to save £750,000 through vol­un­tary re­dun­dan­cies next year.

Mr Saw­ers said this es­ti­mate was based on “past ex­pe­ri­ence”, adding: “We are very con­fi­dent of meet­ing these tar­gets.” The Tele can also re­veal that plans by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to take a £45,000 “man­age­ment fee” from a can­cer sup­port project as part of its sav­ings next year could be scrapped.

It’s un­der­stood the fee will now be re­moved from the SNP’s pro­pos­als af­ter ques­tions were raised about the cash.

Kevin Keenan, leader of the op­po­si­tion Labour group, said: “We’ve all had peo­ple whose lives have been touched by can­cer. I am pleased that the ad­min­is­tra­tion no longer in­tend to take money di­rectly from a char­ity for a man­age­ment fee.”

Wil­lie Saw­ers speaks on the bud­get and (above) Kevin Keenan, of Labour.

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