Dundee city council tax payers will see their bills frozen for the coming financial year, according to the SNP administration’s budget plans.
The council tax freeze leads a serious of “ambitious” proposals as the ruling group shares its plans to balance pandemic spending pressures with greater investment in education, health, tackling poverty, drugs and climate change.
The opposition Labour group has accused the administration of planning to make further cuts to health and social care, claiming the SNP budget will hurt “those most in need across our city.”
The council’s annual budget setting process will take place virtually on Thursday, March 4.
The SNP group’s plans include a 3% wage increase for the lowest paid employees.
A renewed commitment to building a new Mill of Mains Community Facility and the £60 million Craigie/Braeview secondary school replacement is also included.
If approved, the administration will increase the council’s spending on the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership to £82.6 million.
Around £4.4million in savings are outlined in the proposed budget.
Some of the cuts will come from placing fewer children in external care, restructuring the council’s corporate business support services and shrinking the budget for Dundee youth work charity Helm.
Pledge to support the city’s pandemic recovery
Councillor Willie Sawers, the SNP’s finance spokesman, said the group was “acutely aware of the need to support the city during and post-pandemic.”
“We’ve made sure that money is available to just that,” he said.
“We are investing more money in health and social care, in education, in tackling poverty and deprivation, in delivering new schools and council houses and in tackling climate change.
“These are the areas that Dundonians have told us they see as a priority,” he added.
Freeze on burial charges
The Scottish Government has provided £90 million to councils to provide the equivalent of a 3% council tax rise, helping councils freeze rates at current levels.
The SNP Dundee proposals – which must be approved next week- also include a freeze on burial charges and an extra £1 million – on top of what has previously been announced – for mental health, drugs issues and tackling poverty.
Councillor John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council, said: “Setting the council’s £372 million net budget is always a challenge but I firmly believe that our priorities align with the public’s.
“This budget gives the city a solid foundation from which to grow further still.”
Opposition groups have a deadline of Monday 5pm to submit their own finalised proposals
Labour group leader councillor Kevin Keenan said the SNP administration “look to make cuts to health and social care – this time over 778 thousand, which is on top of the £1.6m taken last year.
“This is from an administration that proposed cuts to the wages of care staff who work to deliver health and social care to those most in need across our city.
“In a Covid world, the services that deliver the most to people continue to face the biggest cuts from this administration.”
Councillor Fraser Macpherson, Liberal Democrats, said: “We have already been working in detail on our own budget submission and have already identified cuts in service that are proposed that we want to avoid and we have identified how we can fund avoiding such cuts.
“Additionally, there are important areas of service where we will be proposing improvements and additional funding.
“However, no-one has a monopoly of wisdom and we feel that the various council groups should work together in this year of all years to get the best budget possible for Dundee in such challenging times.”
Councillor Philip Scott, Conservatives, said despite “the huge increase the Scottish Government has received in its own budget “ it is still “woefully” underfunding local government.
“The settlement we have received in Dundee does nothing to mitigate the cuts in services the SNP-run council has made over the last decade,” he added.
DCC budget plans: key points
- A council tax freeze in Dundee.
- Increased budget of £170.4 million for the Children and Families service – 45% of the council’s total budget of £372.8 million.
- Increased budget of £82.6 million from DCC to the Dundee Health & Social Care Partnership.
- Improved support for care experienced young people and families with children with disabilities.
- A freeze of all burial charges.
- Increased funding for mental health, tackling drugs and tackling poverty – an extra £1 million spent in these areas. This in addition to existing budgets and those announced by Scottish Government.
- Accelerate the city’s work to tackle climate change, including £6.5 million for sustainability and low carbon project in the coming financial year.
- An additional £3 million of capital funding on sustainable transport to implement further measures to improve the air pollution levels in the city caused by transportation.
- New Mill of Mains Community Facility and the replacement £60 million Craigie/ Braeview secondary school.
- Free music tuition across the city and the delivery of the ASPIRE programme, offering pupils an opportunity to take part in a bespoke programme of art, music or drama.
- A 3% wage increase for the lowest paid employees.
- Continued investment in maintaining parks and open space to the tune of £7.8 million.
- Support £2 million capital investment in play equipment and playgrounds.
- Spend more than £12million on delivering the full rollout of 1140 hours of nursery provision across new and refurbished nurseries.
- Assist with the delivery of the £700 million Tay Cities Deal programme.