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Broughty Castle, Caird Park golf courses, observatory and libraries could CLOSE amid ‘depressing’ Dundee cuts

Slashing teacher numbers and bin collections, and introducing parking fees in Broughty Ferry, are among other ideas on the table.

Dundee City Council budget proposals
Broughty Castle, Caird Park golf course and Mills Observatory could close. Image: DC Thomson

A series of Dundee landmarks including Broughty Castle, Caird Park golf courses, Mills Observatory and two libraries could close as Dundee local authority chiefs consider “depressing” cuts.

The Courier can reveal that Leisure and Culture Dundee’s board has already approved plans to close the castle, the golf courses and the observatory.

But the closures need final approval from Dundee City Council before going ahead.

Charleston and Arthurstone libraries could also close as Leisure and Culture Dundee, which is funded by the council, looks to find more than £800,000 in savings.

It comes as a series of other ideas to cut council services in Dundee are on the table for 2024/25.

This includes slashing teacher numbers by more than 30, reducing the frequency of bin collections and introducing parking fees in central Broughty Ferry (more details are set out below).

However, council tax in the city is set to be frozen.

‘Depressing’ options ‘show scale of challenge facing council’

Final decisions on cuts will be made by the SNP administration at a meeting later this month.

Leader John Alexander insists not all the options put forward will be implemented, but admits the outlook is bleak, with £24 million in cuts needed.

He said: “The fact that council officers are providing all of the political parties on Dundee City Council with such depressing options shows the scale of the challenge facing the council, with £24m needing to be found.

“No political party will find this budget easy or without pain – that is, sadly, the nature of austerity.

“Dundonians will, rightly, be concerned by the things on this list but it’s important to say that they will not all come to pass.

Council leader John Alexander says he hopes to be able to avoid some of the more drastic cuts.

“It does illustrate that councils, across the UK, need more funding. Something needs to drastically change.

“Our SNP group is looking at alternative ways to balance the budget, to protect frontline services and minimise the impact on our citizens.

“This will, I hope, prevent us from having to take some of the more drastic options provided by council officers.

“At the same, we don’t want to heap further pressure on household budgets and will, following additional funding from the Scottish Government, freeze the council tax.”

Closure of castle, golf courses and observatory could save £100,000s

Kevin Keenan, leader of the opposition Labour group, says the ideas on the table are “devastating”.

He added: “The Leisure and Culture proposals are a legacy of the Olympia swimming pool debacle.

“The money (£6 million) that had to be found for repairs there has added significantly to the deficit now being faced.”

Leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, Fraser Macpherson, said it was already preparing a budget aimed at preventing as many of the cuts as possible.

He said: “We will move heaven and earth to find ways of avoiding these devastating proposals.

“To close Broughty Castle and the Mills Observatory would be a tragedy and an outrage.”

Documents seen by The Courier show that, if approved, the closure of the leisure attractions and services would save the following sums:

  • Caird Park golf courses – £335,000
  • Mills Observatory – £40,000
  • Broughty Castle – £80,000
  • Charleston and Arthurstone libraries – £115,000

It is suggested these proposals would need to go to public consultation before any decisions are made.

Cuts to Dundee teachers and bin collections among proposals

Other proposals put forward by council staff for politicians to consider include:

  • A reduction in teachers across primary and secondary schools by the full-time equivalent of 32.7 members of staff. This would save £1.984m per year.
  • Staff reductions in customer services and IT from vacant posts in the department. This would be supported by the increased use of digital technology but there may be increased waiting times for residents using the services. This would save nearly £200,000 each year.
  • New on-street parking charges in Broughty Ferry covering Brook Street, Gray Street, Queen Street, Fort Street, Lawrence Street and Brown Street. Charges would be £1 for up to 30 minutes and £2 for up to 60 minutes with a maximum stay of one hour. It is expected this would generate income of £243,000 by 2025/26.
Brook Street at Gray Street in Broughty Ferry, where parking spaces are currently free. Image: Google Street View
  • Increasing the cost of a garden waste permit from £42.50 to £45 – which has already been formally agreed.
  • Unspecified cuts to the school crossing patroller service to save £328,000 by 2026/27.
  • A reduction in the city centre Christmas lights to save £30,000.
  • Ceasing running council summer and winter events to save £49,000.
  • An unspecified reduction in the community safety wardens service for a £211,000 annual saving.
  • A drop in the frequency of the weekly food waste collections to save £126,000 per year.
  • Introducing three-weekly grey bin (general waste) collections to save £112,000 annually.

Cuts to several subsidised bus services are also on the cards.

The political parties will put together their budget proposals ahead of a meeting in late February when final decisions will be made.

Other decisions, such as any changes to charges and fees for council services, will also be made at this time.