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Warning of more cuts in council services

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By Rod Edgar
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Warning of more cuts in council services

A £16 MILLION gap in the council’s budget will have to be bridged by cuts to services and possibly higher Council Tax.

Although the reduction in funding from the Scottish Government is not the £19.8 million originally feared, council leader Ronnie Nicholson warns of serious consequences as the budget for 2017/18 is prepared.
Noting the amount comes on top of the £70 million the local authority has been forced to save over the past three years, Councillor Nicholson said: “I’m deeply disappointed that the Scottish Government has agreed to press ahead with massive cuts to councils.
“Although these cuts have been reduced slightly, it leaves the council with a funding gap of £16 million rather than £20 million.
“This will have to be found through cuts to services and possibly higher council tax.”
He added: “With 58 per cent of the council’s budget spent on paying for staff from carers to leisure attendants, it is inevitable that once again we will see a reduction in the workforce.
“The council’s workforce has already fallen by 1100 since 2007 and it will be impossible to prevent it from falling again next year as a result of the Scottish Government’s cuts.”
The Government’s budget will not be agreed by Parliament until about a week before Dumfries and Galloway Council sets their budget on February 28.
But Councillor Nicholson says the council has no option but to proceed assuming these cuts will go ahead.
South Scotland MSP and local councillor Colin Smyth voted against the proposal budget settlement in the Scottish Parliament last Thursday, arguing instead for a rise in the top rate of Income Tax to 50p in the pound for those earning over £150,000.
Mr Smyth said: “These cuts are entirely avoidable.”
However, the Scottish Government says it has ‘treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government’.
Arguing that the overall increase in spending power to support local authority services now amounts to over £400 million or 3.9 per cent, a spokesman said: “Dumfries and Galloway Council’s overall increase in spending power to support local authority services will amount to almost £12.2 million or 4.10 per cent.”

UNION representatives are set to discuss concerns about council job cuts at a meeting next week.
Dumfries and District Trades Union Council (DTUC) secretary John Dennis said: “We’re very concerned that the budget that Dumfries and Galloway Council will put forward later this month, for the 2017/18 financial year, will involve further job cuts and reductions in public services.”
Critical of the Westminster Government’s ‘austerity’ approach, he said: “It wasn’t local councils or the people who work for them that took the UK to the brink of financial collapse, so it is particularly galling that yet again we may face the prospect of more job losses locally through no fault of our own.”
But he added: “Unfortunately, at present we can’t say anything about any detailed proposals by the council because no proposals have yet been made public ahead of the council meeting which will consider the budget later this month.”
The DTUC meeting takes place at the Unison/Unite offices in George Street on Tuesday at 5.45 pm.
All local trade unionists are welcome.

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