Budget battle ahead

THE AXE looms at East Renfrewshire council again — and the authority is asking the community for their opinion on how it should be done.

The budget gap between 2013 and 2016 is estimated to be more than £15million.

As a result, the council is seeking views of local people to address continuing reductions in public funding, prior to announcing a multi-year budger from 2013-2014.

Councillor Jim Fletcher, leader of the council, said: ‘Despite delivering a balanced budget last year and successfully closing the budget gap in previous years, the pressure is on the council once again to save money without compromising important local services.

“Against a backdrop of real terms spending cuts for the next four years, local people and service users are being asked to work with the council to identify where savings can be made without losing the services that deliver the most locally”.

Giffnock and Thornliebank councillor Gordon Wallace is the leader of the Conservative group in the council.

He believes the council’s announcement is a hangover from grand promises in the run up to the election.

Mr Wallace told The Extra: “One thing Mr Fletcher has omitted to say is that last year’s council budget process was finely balanced between the needs of local people with a requirement to identify and propose measures which would get local politicians re-elected.

“This meant the announcement of grand capital spends on schools, sports pitches and health centres.

“The administration has now awoken from a particularly self-indulgent election party with the realisation that it now has to be paid for — hence the “difficult decisions” referred to by the leader of the council”.

A budget strategy group involving all elected members on the administration unanimously agreed last month to manage the council’s continuing financial pressure on a multi-year basis.

Councillor Fletcher continued: “The process will finely balance the needs of local people with a requirement to identify and propose savings measures spanning two years.

“At the council meeting in February 2013, the aim will be to present a balanced budget not only for next year but also an indicative budget for the following year”.

Opionions will be taken at first from the citizens panel, and through a series of focus groups and youth forums. In phase two, activity will focus specifically on identifying savings options to be considered by elected members that will meet the council’s priorities.

Information about the budget proposals will be made available online.

Local residents will also be invited to participate in a simple month-long online budget questionnaire that will run from November 16 at www.eastrenfrewshire/budget2013.

A copy of the questionnaire and budget pack can be requested by calling customer first on 0141 577 3001.