Fife councillors have rubber-stamped budget proposals which will see council tax rise by 3% from April.
Faced with having to meet a £12.8 million budget reduction to balance the books in 2018/9, elected members were forced to make some tough decisions – with the impact of the savings agreed upon expected to result in the loss of around 190 full-time equivalent posts.
Fife’s SNP/Labour administration said the cuts will be managed through early retirement and voluntary severance, adding that compulsory redundancies will be avoided.
The hike in council tax, which will see Band D level go up to £1186.09, is expected to net an extra £4.1 million a year, while rents will – as expected – also go up by 4.9% this year.
Notable aspects of the budget passed include:
- the introduction of a new £1 per day charge at the Halbeath and Ferrytoll park and ride
- a cut in nursery posts due to further development of the peripatetic model in schools
- a reduction in free fruit provision in schools
- a limited increase of 25p on a range of social care services including meals on wheels, community alarms and day care
Families will welcome a £15 increase in the school clothing grant, bringing Fife to the Scottish average, while an allowance has also been built into the budget for a pay settlement set by the Scottish Government which is 3% for those earning up to £36,500 a year, 2% for those earning between £36,500 and £80,000 a year, and a flat rate increase of £1,600 for those raking in more than £80,000.
More money has been pledged to expand breakfast clubs and the popular Quid a Kid and summer swims schemes, while £150,000 a year will go towards tackling grey areas in relation to unadopted roads.
Fife Golf Trust is also expected to be integrated into the Fife Sport and Leisure Trust, while cash has also been pledged to build on the success of Fife Pride in future years.
A number of savings proposed by officers were rejected by the administration, including proposals to reduce cleaning in schools, imposing new charges for assisted bin collections, cutting the Fife Bus service, stopping rail concessions, cutting investment in tackling homelessness and stopping grants to Shopmobility.
Conservative councillors had proposed no council tax rise in their alternative proposals, while the Liberal Democrats wanted to borrow £10m to tackle roads maintenance among other things.
Both were voted down, with 48 votes for the administration amendment compared to just 13 and seven votes for the alternative proposals.
Prior to the meeting, councillors were greeted by protestors from the Fife People’s Assembly who vented their anger at the cuts proposed.
Despite Labour councillor Neil Crooks stressing he would far rather have a “no cuts” budget, FPA spokesman Tam Kirby angrily hit out at the joint administration – symbolically tearing up a previous pledge made by councillors.
“I’m disgusted, annoyed and deeply disappointed,” he said.
“There are councils providing no cuts budgets and providing extra money to give school bairns meals, but in Fife they are trying to paint this as the best they can do.
“It’s all lies. We had a meeting in there and the joint leadership basically made out that we’re too stupid to understand the budget.
“They are treating us like pariahs. The lines have been drawn. Anti-austerity on one side, austerity on the other, and you are on the wrong bloody side every time.”