Controversial decisions will have to be made as budget faces £18 million fall

© DC ThomsonCouncil leader John Alexander.
Council leader John Alexander.

Council job losses cannot be ruled out in Dundee, the SNP’s administration leader has warned.

Council leader John Alexander said he would be “lying” if he claimed service provision in the city could continue at today’s levels and warned there were no easy efficiencies to be made.

The local authority has had to make tens of millions of pounds worth of cuts in recent years. And although its forthcoming settlement from the Scottish government has yet to be finalised, the administration is bracing itself for another reduction in the region of £18 million.

Mr Alexander said he has already held talks with government finance minister Derek Mackay MSP in an effort to mitigate against cuts and insisted the city was continuing to invest in capital plans including infrastructure and school building.

He said: “This year’s budget will be our most challenging, with little room for manoeuvre and no low hanging fruit, in terms of savings and efficiencies.

“We will have to look across all services with a view to reducing our costs significantly, and we estimate that to be around £18m, although that may not be the final position.

“Reducing our costs comes at a price of course and I’m acutely aware the public expect a level of service which they have had for a number of years.

“I’d be lying if I said we could continue as was and we will need to make some difficult calls, including potential reductions to some services and the number of staff.”

Mr Alexander added: “We have a finite budget and as cost pressures – for example our wage bill – will increase by more than £7 million, something has to give.

“It is a legal requirement to present a balanced budget in February and I’ll be working hard to make sure ours is not only balanced, but delivers on the things that matter to people in this city.

“I fully expect that this won’t be easy and it won’t be without controversy.”

Labour group leader Kevin Keenan accused the Scottish Government of selling Dundee short and called for a re-think in the wake of the Michelin closure announcement and ongoing concerns about the finances of NHS Tayside.

He said: “Derek Mackay’s budget has delivered another devastating blow to our city.

“Clearly during the recent visits Mr Mackay has done little or no listening to the city’s needs,  given we have had the announcement of a factory closure with a loss of some 850 jobs, topped with the loss of 1,300 posts within NHS Tayside.

“He needs to re-think the settlement and offer to the council as we cannot afford to lose more staff.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We continue to ensure our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement despite further cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government.

“Dundee City Council will receive over £326 million to fund local services in 2019-20. Using their council tax powers they could also generate an additional £1.9 million to support the delivery of essential local services, meaning an extra £7.5 million next year.

“We have also committed £150 million of new investment via the Tay Cities Region Deal plus additional investment of £50 million and despite inviting the UK Government to match our contribution, it did not do so.

“As Infrastructure Secretary, Michael Matheson has made clear, our investment will drive inclusive economic growth across the region. Details of the further £50 million new investment in the Tay Cities region will be announced in early in 2019.”