Council bosses braced for up to £100m of extra cutbacks

© Steve MacDougall
Perth and Kinross Council HQ.

Council bosses have been warned to brace themselves for up to £100 million of fresh cuts.

Number crunchers believe uncertainty over Brexit has left Perth and Kinross Council facing the need for more savings over the next five years.

The local authority is already working towards saving £65 million after a bleak financial forecast unveiled last year but experts say the council needs to further tighten its belt.

Chief accountant Scott Walker has set out three possible outcomes in his annual medium term financial plan. In the worst case scenario, the council will need to make extra savings of more than £103 million between now and 2023.

Mr Walker calculated in the most optimistic case, the council will still need to save at least £22 million. A mid-range forecast estimates savings of at least £54 million.

In each case, the local authority will look at possible savings across the board and may raise council tax charges.

A school estates review, which considers the future of ageing and under-capacity primaries, is under way and could save nearly £3 million.

A radical shake-up of child residential care, which would rely on foster families for accommodation rather than traditional children’s homes, is also expected to make major savings.

The council has also committed itself to reducing early years development teaching posts, as well as visiting specialists such as PE and music teachers.

The medium-term plan will go before councillors this week, ahead of full budget talks in February.

Mr Walker said the report was aimed at outlining the broad “direction of travel” for the council’s financial management team.

“The council is facing an unprecedented period of change,” he said.

“This includes addressing considerable and ongoing financial challenges, preparing for substantial population increase in Perth and Kinross, alongside rising demand for services and managing significant change in public services – notably the integration of health and social care – as part of a large public service reform agenda.

“The ways in which the council delivers services are increasingly complex and require leadership and flexibility from elected members and council employees.”

He added: “There continues to be significant uncertainty around the impact of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, the implication for the economy and the resultant impact on public sector funding,” he said.

“The economic implications are highly uncertain and will not become clearer fro some time, probably years rather than months.”

The report looks at council tax as a potential source of extra income, either with a projected increase in Band D properties or using council powers to raise charges.

Mr Walker said a transformation programme, a series of more than 40 reviews and proposals – including selling advertising on the side of bin lorries – was central to preparing for upcoming financial challenges.

The local authority has about £80 million of use-able reserves.

Councillors will discuss the plan at their next meeting in Kinross on Wednesday.