Council must tackle £34m funding crisis

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WEST Lothian Council is facing a £34 million funding void looming over the next five years.

In a bid to fill the significant gap identified between 2013/14 and 2017/18, the council has 
approved efficiency savings of £5.8 million for 2013/14.

These include smarter working through the internal Worksmart West Lothian programme, the senior secondary school campus model, procurement and the integrated partnership model.

Work is also going into developing a new ‘Better Ways of Working Programme’, aimed at improving efficiency in the way the council is run.

But with £28m still to find, the local authority will launch a public consultation next month to find out what the public wants it to prioritise.

Details on the consultation will be presented to the Partnership and Resources Policy Scrutiny and Development Panel next Friday, September 21.

Labour’s John McGinty, leader of West Lothian Council, said: “The UK and Europe’s overall economic position has been turbulent with mixed growth throughout 2011/12.

‘‘Growth projections for the UK have been reduced meaning that public spending will continue to be constrained into the foreseeable future.”

He added the local authority had been affected by increased energy costs, increases in the number of older and younger people and new legislative requirements, and it was proper that everyone in West Lothian had their say.

Proposed council priorities include improving employment, improving attainment for school children, delivering positive outcomes and early intervention for early years, improving quality of life for older people, addressing poverty and promotion of equality, reducing crime, protecting the environment, and delivering positive outcomes on health.

John McGinty added: “The outcomes (of the consultation) will be analysed and used to inform whether the priorities are what our communities want us to focus on.

‘‘We will also share the information with our community planning partners which will help to achieve a fully integrated approach to improving 
outcomes for local people.”

This week, local SNP councillor Martyn Day said the shortfall had been expected.

He added: “This is a real challenge for the council as it must produce a balanced budget for next year and I would want to know what was happening by Christmas.

‘‘Decisions need to be made with huge savings to be found. The good news is the administration has a good team of staff well versed in this economic climate - West Lothian Council is probably the best managed council in the country.”