Council cuts on an unprecedented scale are on the horizon for Angus taxpayers.
That was the stark warning delivered by the local authority’s finance director as he revealed a funding gap set to grow to nearly £30 MILLION in the next two years.
And even with projected savings and a dip into reserves, the financial black hole will still top £12m.
Ian Lorimer pulled no punches in a report which gave the newly elected council plenty to mull over during their summer recess.
And it sparked a political row after the new SNP administration’s finance spokesman suggested the area’s status of having Scotland’s second-lowest council tax was not something to shout about.
Bill Duff said that equated to a “sub-standard” level of service.
Facts and figures
Finance director Mr Lorimer predicts the total funding gap will be £28.4m by 2025.
Even with Change Programme savings and the drawdown of reserves Angus will have to find £6.5m this year and £5m-plus next year to have any hope of balancing the books.
And major questions remain over a staff pay settlement.
For this year a budget provision of £2.8m (1.5%) was made.
But a 2% offer was rejected by local authorities umbrella body Cosla days before the budget was set.
It already means an unbudgeted extra £0.9m.
Each 1% increase in pay beyond what has been offered will cost the council at least £1.4m.
And the authority is not immune from the energy costs crisis which has hit every household.
Mr Lorimer said: “It is important to state that there are many factors which will affect the council’s final 2023/24 budget.
“The position could potentially be less severe in practice.
“Nevertheless, I have to warn members of council that at this stage the combination of the huge savings already made, the effects of high inflation on all of our costs and the expectation that government grant will remain static in cash terms over the next few years is likely to require reductions in the level of services the council provides on a scale not previously seen.
“Significant increases in fees and charges and potentially council tax may also be required to balance the books in 2023/24 and the years immediately thereafter.
“The council already faced huge challenges in future years to balance budgets and remain financially sustainable.
“But the scale of inflationary pressures now prevalent across our revenue and capital budgets takes those challenges to a new and unwelcome level.
“Elected members and the general public need to be ready for significant cuts for the foreseeable future.”
Montrose SNP member Mr Duff criticised the previous Independent/Tory administration over its handling of the budget.
“The pattern of using reserves to bridge the gap is clearly unsustainable,” he said.
“And you will find no-one in the administration boasting that we have the second-lowest level of council tax in mainland Scotland.
“In my book, second lowest equates to a sub-standard level of service.
“We can’t expect the same level of service as our peers for a substantially lower level of council tax.”
Opposition leader Derek Wann said: “I think the services that Angus provide are probably right up there.
“We did come fourth in a table of the best in the 32 local authorities in Scotland council so I think that’s something to be proud of, even with the second-lowest council tax.”