Comment: Priorities will not change

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Firstly may I wish every reader of The Extra a Happy New Year. May all your hopes and wishes for 2016 come true.

The weather has been pretty miserable over the festive break but mercifully we have avoided the worst of the horrendous flooding which has blighted much of the UK.

The silver lining in the recent wet weather for East Renfrewshire residents is that we will save a little cash on the salt for our roads!

Speaking of the need to save money, residents will be aware of the unexpected drastic cut in the budget made available to Scottish councils by the Scottish Government.

John Swinney’s budget announcement in December was a very unwelcome Christmas present for us all in East Renfrewshire.

Many people in ERC work over the festive period to keep us all safe and sound. We are always grateful for their efforts. To that list of exemplary staff this year, can be added many of our finance staff, who have been working hard to prepare fresh budget options for councillors to consider in January before we set our new council budget in February.

Residents will remember that we announced an indicitive budget for FY2016/17, when we announced our last budget in Feb 2015.

We had hoped to deliver the budget we set out last year, but the further unexpected cut to our grant settlement from Scottish Government, means that it is unlikely that councillors will be able to deliver the indicitive budget as previously publicised and further savings measures are likely to be required.

One glimmer of good news for East Renfrewshire Council is that we have a rising population and are schools are full both with children who live in East Renfrewshire but also with children who attend our schools through placing requests. This helps to protect our budget. Other council areas with declining populations and declining school rolls are likely to be hit harder. In addition, as a council we have not shirked difficult budget decisions in the past and our prudent approach to budgeting will offer a degree of protection in times such as these,when councils do not receive as much financial support from the Scottish Government as was anticipated.

I cannot promise that residents will not bear some impact of the impending cuts, but I can promise that we will redouble our efforts to maximise in-house efficiencies and do everything we can to protect our front line services.

As a council our priority is to protect and nurture the young, the elderly and the most vulnerable in our community. Despite the difficult financial climate in which we are forced to operate, these priorities will not change.

Jim Fletcher is Leader of East Renfrewshire Council and can be contacted at the Leader’s Secretary 0141 577 3107; or via Members Services 577 3108 or 577 3143 or on email via jim.fletcher@eastrenfrewshire.gov.uk.