Council boss’s cash squeeze despite £800m spending plan

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WEST Lothian Council is set to announce an £800m spending package in its budget next week.

If the plan is approved next Tuesday, the budget will be set for 2013/14 and 2014/15, with a Council Tax freeze put in place for these two years.

The £800 million is broken down into a £400 million capital investment programme from 2013/14 to 2017/18, including improvements to schools, roads and 1000 new council houses, and a revenue grant of £288 million for 2013/14 and £290 million for 2014/15, which includes increasing teacher numbers and expanding free breakfast clubs.

But there are serious challenges ahead as revenue figures fall well below the level of inflation and the council must claw back a £14.8 million shortfall over the next two years.

John McGinty, leader of West Lothian Council, said: “There is no new money to meet demands for growth in and, in effect, the council budget is being cut by the Scottish Government, meaning that the council has to make savings of around £14 million.

‘‘This will inevitably mean hard choices about how the council delivers future service provision, including streamlining services, and reviewing the council’s charging structure.”

Proposals include:

*expand free Breakfast Clubs to all primary school pupils

*provide improved allowances for Foster Care Families making them £23 better each week

*continue to provide free musical tuition

*a living wage of £7.50 an hour for 800 council staff

*increase teacher numbers in line with an expected increase of pupils

*continue to ensure all pre-school children have access to a nursery teacher

*continue funding for a school swimming programme

Proposals for the capital investment programme include:

*£63.5m schools investment programme, with £20m for improvements to nursery, primary, secondary and special schools

*£44m for roads, street lighting, bridges, and footways

*£3.5m projects to improve schools

*£3m for town centres and villages aiming to improve town centre environments and increase use

Housing budget proposals include:

*A council house and garage rent freeze in 2013/14

*A freeze on service charges for sheltered housing properties in 2013/14

*A freeze in rents and service and support charges for homeless properties

Housing capital programme proposals for 2013/14 to 2017/18 include:

*1000 new houses by 2017 over all nine council wards.

Locally, the proposed capital investment programme for 2013/14 to 2017/18 includes:

*£500,000 in 2017/18 for an extension at Winchburgh/Holy Family Primary School

*£500,000 for Linlithgow Partnership Centre (£450,000 - 2013/14, £50,000 - 2014/15)

*£25,000 in 2013/14 for a feasibility study into a new Winchburgh secondary school to meet future demand

*£500,000 for improvements to Lowport Centre

*£1m in 2017/18 to develop a new partnership centre in Winchburgh

*£34,000 each year until 2017/18 (£170,000) to support Linlithgow Town Centre

*£51,000 for steps at The Vennel to the lochside

*£185,000 for improvements to the pitch at Bridgend

*£200,000 to create a pitch and sports ground at Doomsdale

The five year capital 
programme for 2013/14 and 2014/15 includes:

*£365,000 for refurbishment at Linlithgow Academy

*£300,000 for Springfield 
Primary School to rewire and roof covering

*£110,000 for St Joseph’s Primary School building

*£107,000 for improvements at Bridgend Community 

*£80,000 for the play 
facility at Douglas Avenue, Linlithgow

*£72,000 for Bridgend 
Primary School for flooring and drainage repairs

*£60,000 for a new deer shed at Beecraigs Country Park

*£60,000 for the play area at Threemiletown

*£30,000 for improvements at Winchburgh and Holy 
Family Primary School

*£25,000 for new boilers at Westfield Primary School

*£12,000 for patio screens at Lowport Centre