Budget invests despite unprecedented challenges

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2023

This graphic says Council Budget 2023-2024

South Lanarkshire will have new investment but will still have some of the lowest council taxes in Scotland for 2023/24.

Those commitments were agreed by South Lanarkshire Council today, despite the unprecedented double challenge of significantly reduced real-terms government funding together with soaring costs caused by inflation.

The council’s balanced budget for 2023-24 includes:

  • Additional resources to combat fly-tipping and graffiti
  • More investment in safe routes in communities, including drainage and streetlighting
  • And £130 clothing grants will be extended to cover eligible 3 and 4 year olds in early learning establishments

Due to the financial challenges, council tax will rise by 5.5% - though this is about half the rate of inflation. Charges for cremations and planning services will also rise, as will the cost of paid-for secondary school meals – but only by half the rate recommended by officials this year, and they will still be among the cheapest in Scotland.

Council Leader Joe Fagan said: “We have delivered the best possible outcome and I am proud that we have been able to continue to protect vital frontline services and also find innovative ways to invest to help our communities.

“But we need to be under no illusions. It has been a real battle to do this in a climate in which the Scottish Government continues to undervalue and underfund local government. This is undeniable – the Accounts Commission puts the cut to our funding at nearly 10% over the last decade.

“This year’s inadequate grant settlement was particularly shameful, given that every pound that we have available to spend on local services is being devalued by rampant inflation. Food, fuel bills and construction costs are all massively up, and that has a crippling effect on our finances.

“I know our local residents are facing many similar pressures on their household bills, and that is why we have done everything we can to help those who are most vulnerable during the cost-of-living crisis. We will continue to do that in the years ahead, and we will also continue to fight relentlessly for fair funding for council services.”

The budget was agreed at full Council when an officer report was approved with a a number of amendments presented by the council’s Administration, which is a partnership between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Independent groups. 

The report identified a £16.3m residual budget gap after a number of earlier actions. Council noted a further £7.5m improved position in the financial position due to funding arrangements, and agreed £1.95m in further savings towards closing that gap.

The 5.5% rise agreed in council tax is in line with the approach being taken across Scotland and, dependent on decisions in other areas, South Lanarkshire’s band rates are expected to remain the lowest on the mainland.

The council tax increase will raise approximately £8m, which as well as helping bridge the budget gap will also fund a £1.182m kickstart to a planned £13m Leisure and Culture Transformation Fund. This will modernise local facilities, optimise their use and contribute towards the council’s climate change responsibilities.

Additional funding is also to be made available to South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture as it deals with its budget pressures and transitions to its business model.