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Council leader calls for fairer deal on funding

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Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan has called on both the UK and Scottish governments to “give councils the time and money they need” when allocating funding to local services.

Councillor Macmillan criticised the budget-setting timetables announced by both governments as Renfrewshire Council prepares to meet this week and discuss its own financial outlook.

Cllr Macmillan said: “Setting the council’s budget is an ongoing process we will be working on up until the 2016/2017 budget is announced to the Renfrewshire public in February. But the timetables announced by the UK and Scottish governments mean councils will be in the dark about their funding levels until very late in the day.”

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“The Chancellor spoke in July of £20bn of spending cuts across Whitehall departments but won’t confirm where these will be made until the delayed Comprehensive Spending Review in November. The Scottish Government won’t confirm the local government settlement until January 2016 so there’s very little time for councils to react. I think it’s only fair councils should be given the time we need.

Councillor Macmillan added: “It’s important people understand the funding difficulties Renfrewshire Council has consistently been faced with in recent years. Renfrewshire has been on the grant floor of Scottish Government funding every year since 2009 – the only mainland local authority to be treated in that way. About 80% of our funding is determined by the Scottish Government and we anticipate over the next two years a further 3-6% cut in that funding, potentially at the higher end of that scale, which will have repercussions for our residents. This has a damaging impact on the our ability to deliver the services our citizens and our communities need and deserve. We are only asking for a fair deal for Renfrewshire.”

“We know what the priorities for Renfrewshire are and our next budget will continue to invest in education and social work so that we support vulnerable families, tackle poverty and look to close the educational attainment gap. Creating employment opportunities and regenerating our town centres will continue to be key priorities. But we need to know as soon as possible exactly what our funding settlement is so that we can allocate funds across our spending priorities.”

Renfrewshire Council has previously announced the need to make budget savings of up to £30million between 2015 and 2018.

Cllr Macmillan said: “Like other Scottish councils, we have to adjust our financial plans because of uncertainties over our funding settlement and other factors. We have identified where we can make ongoing savings with no compulsory redundancies, minimal impact to frontline services and, in many cases, with a better service provided.

“Our level-headed approach to managing our finances has been recognised by Audit Scotland. Audit Scotland checks that public money is spent properly, efficiently and effectively and it has given our accounts a clean bill of health, including the level of reserves we maintain for emergencies.

“Our programme to roll-out LED street lighting is a prime example of this approach. It will save us £750,000 every year on top of the environmental benefits it will bring. Similarly, introducing a new online customer portal in 2016 will generate significant savings while improving the experience of doing business with the council.”