West Lothian Council has confirmed that the updated £29.5 million deficit and subsequent budget cuts will not affect plans to pay a ‘living wage’.
The council is continuing to develop plans for a three year budget strategy for 2015/16 to 2017/18 and has agreed that there would be provision in the council’s budget for the living wage of £7.85 to be paid to all council employees in 2015/16 and the provision for a further two per cent uplift in the living wage in 2016/17 and 2017/18.
The council will also promote the living wage through its procurement strategy for council contracts.
West Lothian Council’s head of finance will now prepare a report setting out measures that will address an updated budget gap of £29.544million (revised from £30.4 million) and secure a balanced budget over the three years 2015/16 to 2017/18.
The revised and updated revenue budget position takes into account changes to costs associated with delivering several services.
These changes include: A reduction in recurring revenue expenditure of £250,000 for the new Rosemount Court elderly housing provision and indicative increases to employers contributions for the Teachers’ Superannuation Scheme.
The increase in costs for the council over 2015/16 and 2016/17 are estimated to be £1.3million.
COSLA is in discussions with the Scottish Government over funding for this additional cost pressure for councils and, in common with other councils, it is assumed that this pressure will be fully funded by the Scottish Government.
In line with this assumption, the previous budget gap was based on the council incurring non-funded expenditure of £639,000 for teachers’ superannuation scheme costs.
This cost has now been removed from the budget model on the basis that Scottish Government funding will be provided.
Council leader John McGinty said: “This is the next step in delivering a balanced budget for West Lothian.
‘‘We are continuing to develop plans for a three-year budget strategy and have set out a clear approach to financial planning which will help to ensure that we can respond to the magnitude of the challenge in delivering essential services whilst financial resources are constrained.
‘‘The council introduced the Living Wage in November 2013 of £7.65 and I’m sure the provision for an increase in the living wage will be welcomed.”
He added: “Clearly the reduction in the estimated budget gap from £30.4 million to £29.544 million is positive. The challenges that lie ahead are not to be underestimated.’’