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Shock as council faces £21.1m budget savings

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By Rod Edgar
Annan and Eskdale
Shock as council faces £21.1m budget savings

A MASSIVE £21.1 million of savings will be required in next year’s Dumfries and Galloway Council budget.

The figure exceeds the dire £20 million estimate which Council Leader Ronnie Nicholson had warned would see the axing of services, and he described it as ‘the single biggest attack on local government for a generation.’

Announcing the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget for 2016/17 on Wednesday, Scottish Government Finance Minister John Swinney said: “The current financial landscape presents us with a challenge and a choice. Scotland can meekly accept these
UK Government cuts or we can rise to the challenge and chose a Scottish alternative to austerity.
“We choose to rise to the challenge. We choose the Scottish alternative. We choose to put reform and growth at the heart of this Budget.”
Addressing the allocation of funding to local authorities such as Dumfries and Galloway, Mr Swinney said: “Local government will receive a strong but challenging financial settlement, strengthened by our joint working on health and social care integration and on improving educational attainment.”
The settlement nationally means an overall 3.5 per cent cut in local government budgets.
But the council’s own initial estimates suggest it faces a cut of 4.5 per cent—which is higher than the Scottish average.
Council Leader Ronnie Nicholson said: “That is likely to require us to find savings of £21.1 million next year alone. [That is] £9 million more than our planned budget savings of £12 million — a cut way beyond even our most pessimistic estimates a year ago.”
Councillor Nicholson says that responsibility for the ‘vindicative attack on local councils’ rests firmly with the Scottish Government.
While he has ‘no time for the austerity policies’ of the current UK Government, he says the budget allocation from Westminster had increased in cash terms by several hundred million pounds.
Councillor Nicholson said: “In short it was the single biggest attack on local government for a generation. This was austerity plus from the Scottish Government and this time
they cannot lay the blame at the door of the UK Government.”
Council Tax remains frozen nationally for the ninth consecutive year, and the Scottish Government has announced £4 million of funding for areas worst hit by recent severe

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