No further cuts this year say council but 2017/18 will be tougher!

East Renfrewshire Council leader, Jim Fletcher pictured with chief financial officer Margaret McCrossan
East Renfrewshire Council leader, Jim Fletcher pictured with chief financial officer Margaret McCrossan

It’s good news for East Ren residents as the council have confirmed there will be no further cuts to frontline services in the 2016/17 budget.

And in addition, leader Jim Fletcher told The Extra that there will be no compulsory redundacies facing staff either.

So, despite the fact the council still have to locate an extra £1m to help balance the books for 2016/17 budget, residents and staff won’t be affected.

Despite the fact that there are choppy waters ahead for the council, they say there is a steady hand at the tiller.

The council budget for 2016/17 has a £1m shortfall on top of the £9m savings already indentified by the executive.

Leader Jim Fletcher said: “Through a period of prudent financial planning, including a careful examination of where savings could be made, such as lower interest rates on borrowings and different ways of working, means we will be able to find that extra one million pounds for this year’s shortfall without further affecting frontline services or staffing levels.”

The council have confirmed, however, that for the 2017/18 budget years, a much higher level of savings will have to be found - anticipated to be in the region of £6m.

The administration does not expect that it will be able to give the same guarantees for these years as it has for the current period.

When asked if frontline services would be unaffected during 2017/18 and if a guarantee could be given there would be no compulsory redundancies, the leader responded: “I can give no such guarantees. I do not expect that the shortfall can be met from reserves alone, therefore we will have to look at further efficiencies which may include a reduction in some services as well as increasing income from rates increases and the like.”

ERC Head of Accountancy, Margaret McCrossan, said: “This has been a very difficult and complex budget process.

“Last February we announced a long term three year financial plan which would see us deliver savings of some £22m over the three financial years 2015 – 2018.

“However, this savings target has increased and we now need to save nearly £24m over the three years.

“As a prudent council we have been working towards making these savings and already have clear plans for nearly £17m of savings which we consulted on last year. We now need to identify plans for a further £7m of recurring savings by 2017/18.

“We already have a proven track record in delivering efficiencies effectively and are committed to further modernising the way we work to achieve optimal efficiency. This will contribute significantly to closing the savings gap.”

The Council reported at their meeting yesterday that there would be no increases to council tax, the pupil/teacher ratio as set out by the Scottish Government would be maintained and they would ensure staff were paid the Living Wage of £8.33 per hour from April 2016.

The administration have delivered more than £37m of savings over the past six years, but despite this have stayed on track with their capital programme of a £155m investment in roads and education.