Calls for the Scottish Government to look again at financial support for local authorities have followed the news that Dundee City Council must slash £28 million from its budget.
The deepest cuts the city has seen in years have been branded “brutal”, with the SNP administration admitting no service will remain unaffected and that jobs will go.
The impact the savings required will have upon services has also chilled to the bone some of those who represent the city’s most vulnerable people.
Erik Cramb of Dundee Pensioners Forum said further cuts on already stretched services for the elderly could have a devastating impact.
In the wake of this week’s announcement, Derek Scott, Conservativecouncillor for the Ferry, said social care and education, by far the council’sbiggest expense, should be protected.
While the Scottish Government has said it has treated local government “very fairly”, with Dundee receivingsignificant financial support, Mr Scott believes the SNP must look to provide additional funding to Scotland’s councils to help them through the hardship and ensure that public services do not suffer.
He said he disagreed with SNP claims they were being forced to make the cuts, pointing to the Scottish Government’s protected budget as well as its £350m underspend this year.
“It looks like local governmentfunding isn’t high on the SNP agenda,” Mr Scott said.“I find it difficult that the council seems to find funding when it wants for things like the airport and the V&A I realise these are capital projects but they will have a revenue implication.
“Education and social care are the main things I will be looking out for.”
West End independent councillor Fraser Macpherson echoed the call for Scottish Government intervention.
He said: “I feel there is a need for the Scottish Government to look verycarefully at the support it gives not just Dundee but all local authorities.
“We have had year-on-yearreductions in local government funding particularly given the challenges that local government has faced in trying to preserve services.
“Local government provide vitalservices particularly education and social services.
“I think everyone accepts there are budget challenges ahead but we need to avoid the sort of cuts that will really impact on the most vulnerable.”
Dundee City Council will present detailed proposals on where the cuts can be made at the end of the year and Mr Cramb said he was concerned the elderly will be among those who suffer.
He said: “Of course elderly people rely on public services the most. After Willie Sawers made the announcement there is concern about where the money is going to come from.
“When the council works out the detail of these budget cuts I thinkparticular care has to be taken in terms of the most vulnerable and to work out how we can protect them.
“The elderly certainly fall into thecategory of having the most needs. Care in the community is already very stretched.
“The care and dignity of elderlypeople is only sustainable if there is the political will to protect it.”
He said the “elephant in the room” was income and that the only way toprotect services was for those who are better off to pay more tax.
A spokeswoman from the Scottish Government stressed the financialbacking it was already providing toScotland’s councils.
“Despite cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government, local government has been treated very fairly by the Scottish Government,” she said.
“Local government finance settlements have been maintained over the period 2012-16 with extra money for new responsibilities and, as a result, the total settlement in 2015-16 now amounts to over £10.85 billion.
“Dundee City Council receives its fair share of this total sum which amounts to over £318 million this year as well asan additional near £1.8 million thisyear to compensate from the lost income resulting from the council taxfreeze.
“The financial performance reported in the annual accounts demonstratesthe effective stewardship of resources by the Scottish Government in againlimiting underspend to around 1%of the Scottish Government’s budget.”
“As the finance secretary confirmed to Parliament in June this year, as a result of prudent decisions and effective financial management, the planned 2014-15 cash underspend is being invested in the current year to support Scotland’s economy.”How other councils have made savingsThe Courier takes a look at what other councils have done to make savings:
Public toilets: South Lanarkshire Council, like several councils in Scotland, caused a stink by deciding to close its public loos and sell the premises, saying they are not legally obliged to provide the conveniences.
Park staff: Thirty park keeper posts were cut at Kirklees Council in May as the West Yorkshire council tried to find £69m of savings over three years.
Free parking: The axing of complimentary parking for staff is being considered at Norfolk County Council, where the daily charge would be on a sliding scale with top earners paying the most.
Pupil librarians: An idea to make school library staff all part-time with senior pupils taking on some of their duties was thrown out by East Renfrewshire Council this year. However, it did plough on with plans to reduce the number of library staff. Library cuts have also been planned in Fife.
Redundancies: Up to 2,000 staff may have to be shed at Edinburgh City Council, which is looking at making £126m of cuts over four years.
Breakfast club sharing: Education bosses at Glasgow City Council plan to save £400,000 by merging breakfast clubsat schools.
Top brass reductions: Calderdale Council in Yorkshire has reduced spending on chief officers by more than £500,000 a year since 2010 by “reducing senior management costs”.
Arts under attack: The entire £94,000 arts budget at Moray Council was removed in 2013 after councillors said the arts consistently came bottom of the list for residents in spending priority studies.
‘No cuts’: Aberdeen City Council claimed to have passed its third “no cuts” budget in three years, saying there is no need for “additional savings in the short term”.
Pop-up shops: A list of 50 “sensible savings” ideas for local Government was released by Eric Pickles in 2012, when he was Communities Secretary in the Coalition Government. They included everything from tackling fraud to banning mineral water at meetings and allowing pop-up shops in council buildings.