Coun­cil job cuts likely in bud­get

Coun­cil­lors will have to make ‘un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sions’ when set­ting bud­get for 2019-20

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - STE­FAN MORKIS

The chief ex­ec­u­tive of Dundee City Coun­cil has said job cuts may be the only way the lo­cal au­thor­ity can make the near £20 mil­lion of sav­ings re­quired in 2019-20.

David Mar­tin told the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s pol­icy and re­sources com­mit­tee last night that plans to re­duce staff num­bers would likely be “part and par­cel” of any bud­get pro­pos­als put for­ward next month.

Dundee City Coun­cil ex­pects to have to find sav­ings of £19.4 mil­lion.

Mr Mar­tin said: “There will be pol­icy choices that will not be pop­u­lar in the city.”

Let’s not pre­tend the prob­lems in lo­cal gov­ern­ment are only in Scot­land. These prob­lems are across these is­lands and are be­ing faced by par­ties of all colours

Job losses at Dundee City Coun­cil are in­evitable as it makes nearly £20 mil­lion of cuts, the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s chief ex­ec­u­tive has warned.

David Mar­tin told the pol­icy and re­sources com­mit­tee that balanc­ing the rev­enue bud­get for 2019-20 would re­quire de­ci­sions that would be “un­pop­u­lar in the city”.

A re­port pre­sented to coun­cil­lors yes­ter­day said on cur­rent as­sump­tions the coun­cil will have to find bud­get sav­ings of £19.4m in 2019-20.

Although it has the power to raise coun­cil tax by up to 3%, this would only raise ad­di­tional in­come of £1.5m.

Lord Provost Ian Borth­wick said the sit­u­a­tion was the worst he has seen in lo­cal gov­ern­ment since he was first elected as a coun­cil­lor 56 years ago.

Mr Mar­tin told coun­cil­lors that lo­cal au­thor­ity bud­gets have re­duced in real terms over the past decade.

He said: “We are fac­ing ma­jor chal­lenges as a city and as a city coun­cil.

“With over 60% of coun­cil costs as staff costs, re­duc­ing the head count has to be part and par­cel of pre­sent­ing a bal­anced bud­get pro­posal to elected mem­bers.

“Coun­cils across Scot­land are mak­ing the point that while you can be ef­fi­cient, there is only so much you can do.”

He added: “Of­fi­cers will de­liver pro­pos­als for a bal­anced bud­get but there will be dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions.

“There will be pol­icy choices that will not be pop­u­lar in the city or with elected mem­bers.”

Mr Borth­wick urged coun­cil­lors from all par­ties to work to­gether to lessen the im­pact of the cuts on Dundee and its cit­i­zens.

He said: “In all hon­esty, this is the most wor­ry­ing and sig­nif­i­cant bud­get in my 56 years in lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

“I have never seen a coun­cil fac­ing these is­sues and chal­lenges.

“I think it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that there are so many fam­i­lies in our city in a very dif­fi­cult place and many peo­ple are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of poverty.”

Lochee Labour coun­cil­lor Michael Marra said the sys­tem of fund­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment and other pub­lic ser­vices in Scot­land is “bro­ken”.

He added: “It’s a dis­as­ter. The NHS is in cri­sis. Col­leges are in cri­sis.

“Peo­ple are go­ing to lose their jobs be­cause of spend­ing com­mit­ments the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has made that it does not have the money to pay for.

“We’re in a sit­u­a­tion where we can­not of­fer ba­sic ser­vices. We’ve been gut­ted by 10 years of in­com­pe­tence.”

SNP Ferry coun­cil­lor Kevin Cordell said it was wrong to blame the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and that years of aus­ter­ity has led to swinge­ing cuts at coun­cils across the UK.

He said: “Coun­cils in Eng­land have had cuts of 40%, while in Wales, which is Labour run, cuts have been deeper than in Scot­land. Let’s not pre­tend the prob­lems in lo­cal gov­ern­ment are only in Scot­land. These prob­lems are across these is­lands and are be­ing faced by par­ties of all colours.”

Coun­cil­lors will meet on Fe­bru­ary 21 to set the bud­get for 2019-20.

Pic­ture: Kim Cess­ford.

Dundee City Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive David Mar­tin warned of job losses and un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sions in the face of cuts to coun­cil fund­ing.

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