Council tax to be frozen for 2012-13

PROPOSALS for East Renfrewshire’s 2012/13 budget go before the council this morning (Thursday).

The total grant for the coming year is £182 million, dependent on conditions from the Scottish government that the authority retains a council tax freeze and maintains teacher numbers and funding for the police board.

Council leader Jim Fletcher told The Extra that the authority’spriority remains on front line services, and stated that the majority of cuts had already been made within the council itself through voluntary redundancy and wage freezes.

He explained: “The years in future will be tough, but for this year it’s a relatively positive story.

“We’re working with trade unions to solve staff pressures. This needs to be done in partnership with the workforce, but the thrust is to cut out inefficiencies and make savings in the council office so as not to affect front line services”.

The budget allocation for roads is set at an increase of £1.124m on last year’s spending, and of the total £10.8 million dedicated to East Ren’s roads, the budget for carriageway resurfacing has more than doubled to £1.435m.

Councillor Fletcher added that the issue of roads requires “national investment to solve all problems”, but added that it was still a local priority.

Also included in this year’s budget are a number of one-off investments – a result of a flat cash settlement from Holyrood to all local authorities, where grants will decrease over a three year period, but present a cash increase of 1.2 per cent in 2012/13.

Proposals include a third generation synthetic football pitch within Cowan park, in partnership with Barrhead Youth football club for which the council could invest £530,000, and a similar plan at Eastwood park, in partnership with the Giffnock Soccer Club, where the authority proposes investing £320,000.

The second site would also be made available to pupils at St Ninian’s high school.

In terms of employment and economic development, ERC plans to continue its youth employment scheme and Place to Grow campaign, as well as backing plans to form a Giffnock BID (business improvement district) to follow the Clarkston BID established last year.

Smaller projects include new toilets for the Mearns cemetery waiting room, and £200,000 to spend on school toilets, which councillor Fletcher commented that many pupils have complained about.

The budget also proposes £2.6m towards a revamp of Rouken Glen park, as ERC has an ongoing bid to receive money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to modernise the pavilion and make further improvements to the visitor attraction.

Also discussed is a joint venture between East Renfrewshire council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, to provide a health centre to replace the Clarkston facility in 2014/15, for which the local authority plans to invest up to 50 per cent of the cost.

Councillor Fletcher commented: “It’s a project that people will see as being very important and will make a difference to their lives.

“We would like something similar to Barrhead health centre, and would obviously call on the health board to provide further funding.

“We will be looking at suitable land – possibly the site of the former Isobel Mair school – to build a replacement centre”.

Speaking before today’s meeting, opposition leader Jim Swift remained tight-lipped about reactions to the budget.

However, the Conservative councillor commented: “We know that the numbers are very tight, and we are negotiating with other independent councillors as to an acceptable amendment”.

The proposed budget goes to a council vote today at 10am.