Council faces tough choices as public services face cuts

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The budget shortfall facing West Lothian Council is worse than first feared after it was announced the gap has widened to £73.3 million over the next five years.

The local authority had been anticipating a shortfall of more than £66 million between 2018--23, but the dispute over workers’ pay and additional pressures in social care budgets have increased costs.

A council report noted there are considerable risks and uncertainties around various aspects of spending, including the level of future pay awards, the costs of demand-led services especially in social care, and the level of inflationary increases in budgets.

Council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: “The scale of the challenges that lie ahead cannot be underestimated.”

He added: “Our officers do not anticipate that the level of Scottish government funding for the council will be announced until December and it is essential that officers continue the necessary preparatory work based on the figures they have.

“Despite the challenges, West Lothian Council will continue to plan ahead and ensure services are delivered as well as possible, given the financial context the council finds itself in.”

The local authority has also agreed plans to launch a consultation in October 2017 and residents, groups, partners and employees will be invited to take part.

The consultation will seek views on council tax levels, the council’s future priorities and potential budget measures.