Council Budget update

Branch Secretary Robin Taggart gives an update on the upcoming Inverclyde Council Budget.

Later next month the council will meet to agree on next year’s council tax as well as setting next year’s budget.

The Scottish Government have lifted previous caps allowing council’s to increase council tax by whatever margin they see fit.

There is however clearly an underlying agenda, some might say a cynical agenda, since council elections are due to take place in May. It remains to be seen if elected members in Inverclyde will increase council tax and if so by how much.

The council’s budget gap is currently just under £2.5m. This is before any council tax increase. For each 1% of council tax increase the budget gap reduces by approximately £300k. So even if the council were to increase council tax by 3%, it would still leave a budget gap of around £1.5m.

Given that £4m of reserves are already being used to reduce the budget gap, the council’s position is that the remaining budget gap will need to be closed by cuts to services.

Over the past several months there have been ongoing discussions as to what service areas may be affected. The trade unions were provided with a list of potential cuts including the impact these would have on jobs.

In December last year it was agreed to carry out a targeted voluntary severance trawl on those employees whose jobs may be affected by the cuts. 170 employees were trawled with 40 expressing an interest in voluntary severance release.

The areas affected where UNISON has a membership interest are fairly wide ranging.

Within the HSCP – advice services, assessment & care management, business support and older people’s services at Hillend.

Within the education and communities directorate – CLD, libraries (including school libraries), family support and home school link services and a reduction in early years provision in Kilmacolm.

Within the Environment and regeneration directorate – Registrars and the community warden service.

In addition other areas are at risk of cuts where UNISON members are unaffected as well as some proposals to increase charges.

Meetings with elected members in their political groups are scheduled and this will give the trade unions a platform to put forward our position across the range of different cuts proposals.

Whilst there is no threat of compulsory redundancies there is a risk that some vacancies will be removed and short term temporary contracts will not be continued. It may also be that a small number of employees may be released through voluntary severance.

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