Cold weather cuts fear in West Lothian

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West Lothian commuters could be travelling over ungritted pavements this winter as the council looks at slashing its budget.

Council crews currently grit  pavements from 5am, but councillors have been told that £100,000 could be saved by not starting  gritting until 8am.

The budget cuts will see staff doing more with less in five years.

Around 80 jobs could disappear from roads and  environment crews along with overtime bans and shift changes and a reduction in the number of vehicles.

Dozens of cuts to the Roads  and Neighbourhood Environment Teams (NETs) services  have been drawn up as the council faces a budget gap of £65.3 million over the next five years as a result of Scottish Government funding not covering costs.

The council receives 80 per cent of its funding from the Scottish Government.

NETs  will see the number of enforcement officers cut and a move in focus from enforcement to prevention. There is a pledge to maintain grass in urban areas, and playparks , but out in the country grass cutting and  grounds maintenance will be trimmed back.

West Lothian’s roads are  in good repair but  the  austerity of the next five years will take its toll. 

“Assets will deteriorate,” an official warned councillors at the Environment Policy  Development and Scrutiny Panel.  Councillors – who largely listened in silence as officials detailed cutbacks – will have to decide  on which cuts to make in the next few weeks.

Proposals to cut Christmas lights and trees from the  budget,  which would save £120,000, have, however, been scrapped. 

After the meeting Executive councillor for the Environment, Linlithgow’s Tom Conn said: “The amount of funding that the council has put into Waste Management, Roads & Transportation and Nets, Land and Countryside has increased between 2007/08 to 2018/19. However, the cost of delivering these services has increased significantly – costs associated with increasing demand due to population  and increasing inflation. This is combined with insufficient funding from the Scottish Government to meet the full increase in the costs and demand for all  services.

“We now have to bridge a further £63m shortfall over the next five-years. You cannot take that level of funding out of any organisation without it affecting local services and staff.”