Council forecast big public spending cuts

More cuts to social care are expected
More cuts to social care are expected

Residents are being warned to expect further cuts to public services as West Lothian Council looks to plug a £66m black hole.

At an executive meeting on Tuesday plans were put in place to deal with further funding constraints and spending pressures for the five years from 2018/19.

The forecasts were made on the assumption that council tax – currently frozen – would rise to three per cent per year, but this would be part of a wider public consultation which will be held in the autumn.

Other factors such as low economic growth, policy changes and uncertainty around Brexit could lead to further savings being required.

The council noted “increased spending pressures and reduced Scottish Government funding” have already seen “£92m of savings in the last ten years”.

However, the leader of the council, Councillor Lawrence Fitzpatrick, suggested further spending cuts on services were to be expected.

He said: “With costs rising and Scottish Government funding falling, we face a significant challenge to continue to deliver quality public services on behalf of our residents.”

The council leader added that costs are continuing to rise because of “growing school rolls, more older people with complex care needs and increasing costs for essential goods, services and staffing.”

He said that its main source of funding from the Scottish Government is predicted to fall by five per cent over the next five years.

And “prudent financial planning and consulting with local residents are essential so we can agree the way forward for the future”.

Talks are planned with residents in the autumn to hear what their priorities are for public services, which will inform the council’s revenue budget setting process for the years ahead, the leader of the local authority added.

Meanwhile, the council approved plans to invest £48 million in public assets such as schools, roads and open spaces – down from £69.6 million last year.

An updated general services capital plan 2017-18 was agreed by the executive, which includes over £21.2 million for property assets such as schools, care homes and operational buildings and £15.7 million to be 
invested in road and related assets.

They also agreed to spend £4.5 million on open spaces like parks and £7 million on information communication technology.