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Budget consultation

Budget approved but Leader rues “awful decisions”

Published Wednesday 21 February 2024

Some “truly awful and painful” decisions had to be taken to balance South Lanarkshire Council’s budget this year.

Council Leader Joe Fagan said councillors had no option other than to accept a number of cuts put forward by officers because local authorities across Scotland have been hit by a squeeze on the funding they get from the government to deliver services.

A meeting of the full Council was told today that South Lanarkshire’s funding gap for 2024-25 alone was more than £20.5 million, requiring savings across almost every part of the council’s work.

However, following agreement by a cross-party working group, the budget means:

  • Some savings options were rejected, including new parking charges at local attractions, a reduction in grass-cutting, and council support for Christmas events
  • The creation of a new £1m Community Fightback Fund to keep halls and other facilities open while the council supports local groups to take them over
  • An additional Future Libraries Fund
  • Significant investment in maintaining the area’s roads, and
  • There will be no rise in Council Tax this year.

Councillor Fagan said: “I agree with colleagues across the country in COSLA that the Council Tax freeze is not being fully funded by the government. However, we feel we have no choice other than to accept it this year, and I know that will at least provide some relief for local householders.

“I am also pleased that we were able to reject some of the most controversial options. This is because we listened to our residents, who told us very clearly that they wanted us to keep our roads in good condition. We also know how much people appreciate the work council staff do to keep our communities clean and tidy.

“We also rejected a number of proposed savings that would have impacted on our schools and taken away 44 teaching jobs. But everybody needs to understand that this budget was only balanced because we were forced to take some truly awful and painful decisions.

“They also need to know that this is because the Scottish Government is not providing fair funding for councils – and every indication is that this situation will continue. So even more awful decisions are likely to be needed in the years ahead.”

Cllr Fagan added: “I want to thank those groups of councillors who put aside party politics to work together to agree this budget, however painful it is. Local government has to work together to get through this funding crisis and to secure a fairer funding deal for Scotland’s councils and communities.”

A total of 38 proposed savings were agreed by the Council for financial year 2024-25, totalling £13.19m. Councillors were told accepting the Council Tax freeze was expected to add £7.869m to funding received from the Scottish Government.

That left a surplus of £489,000 and it was agreed that this money plus £1.676m from reserves should be used to provide some key investments in the area.

This will include £480,000 a year to finance loans that will pay for £7.2m of road maintenance improvements in the coming years. This will offset a £1.8m cut in revenue funding in that area over each of the next four years.

It will also deliver the new Community Fightback Fund, which will add £800,000 in new transitional funding to an existing £200,000 pot that will be used to support any facilities which are affected by budget decisions that have to be taken by South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture (SLLC).

A separate £150,000 Future Libraries Fund will similarly provide support to find alternative ways of delivering services in any SLLC rationalisation.

SLLC’s board will consider potential withdrawal of service from a number of community halls, libraries and other facilities on 28 February. Any groups considering taking over such facilities in a Community Asset Transfer can seek the council’s support to do so.

However, the Budget, which was moved by Cllr Fagan on behalf of the cross-party Budget Working Group, reduced the proposed cut in the management fee that will be paid to SLLC to provide leisure and cultural services. Instead of the £1.5m cut proposed originally, it was agreed the saving should be £750,000.

Cllr Fagan stressed that two consequences would be that Hollandbush golf course future would be guaranteed for a year to allow them to consider their long-term future, and he added that Whitehill Neighbourhood Centre in Hamilton would be kept open.

There is also a year of transitional funding for Regen:fx and voluntary groups that will be supported to find alternative sources of income after they were included in the council’s savings package.

Finally, there will be investments in spend to save projects through a £500,000 additional contribution to the Central Energy Efficiency Fund, and another £150,000 through a Net Zero Innovation Fund.

Related content

  1. Budget consultation
  2. Budget approved but Leader rues “awful decisions”