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Council rejects unspent £2.3m grants criticism

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By Fiona Reid
Council rejects unspent £2.3m grants criticism

CLAIMS the council are sitting on £2.3 million of unspent grants while preparing £21 million of cuts next year have been firmly rebuffed.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine claimed Dumfries and Galloway Council were sitting on an unused sum, after a report showed money committed to certain schemes was no longer required.
A statement issued by Ms McAlpine amid a row over grants for flood-hit premises said: “In a huge embarrassment to Labour, internal council papers for the policy and resources committee this week revealed the Labour council had failed to spend £2.3 million of Government grants last year, in areas as diverse as early years education and Council Tax reduction.”
However, the council say they had originally allocated this money to these schemes before funding was later made available from the Scottish Government.
Their statement said: “The council had already decided to mitigate against the decision by the Department of Work and Pensions last year to reduce funding for Council Tax benefit by ten per cent by allocating our own resources to make up the shortfall in funding rather than cut the benefit to users by ten per cent.
“After the council had already agreed to do this in our budget, the Scottish Government decided to allocate funding for the same purpose to council.
“As a consequence we are able to reallocate that funding.”
The local authority says those funds were instead put into its Change Fund, which is used to deal with significant changes required in the council due to cuts in Government grants.
Redundancies resulting from savings next year of £21 million will be funded by the change fund.
And the council says monies are required to help invest in the achievement of savings and efficiencies due to the very significant reduction in funding facing the council over the upcoming period.
Pointing to one such investment, a council spokesman said: “£120,000 was provided out of the change fund to introduce real-time monitoring and increase smart phone technology for home carers.”
He added: “The rota system was improved dramatically because of that, supervisory requirements were improved, and also the amount of time that we had to employ home carers for was also reduced.”

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