Council running out of time and options

Councillor Bob Burrows

Councillor Bob Burrows

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North Lanarkshire Council’s finance convener, Bob Burrows, believes the Scottish Government is trying to kill off local authorities.

The 32 councils in Scotland have seen their budgets for 2016/17 cut by a combined £774 million.

With £22 million in savings already identified North Lanarkshire was expecting to have to find around £45 million in additional cuts over the next two years.

However, this figure has now leapt to £70 million in one year with Finance Minister John Swinney demanding councils submit their budget to him by February 9.

Councillor Burrows said: “Two weeks ago we anticipated having to find an extra a £5 million as a worse case scenario, it turned out to be £24.9 million.

“This is financial starvation, this is about the demise of local government as we know it.

“A few years ago I said we had a gun to our head, this time we have two guns to our head, just incase he misses with the first one.”

Last week a special meeting of the Policy and Resources discussed the findings of the consultation with residents and staff.

Although the consultation was considering a two-year plan and even as a one-year plan doesn’t have enough savings in it, just £49 million, Councillor Burrows still thinks it is useful.

He said: “When we were doing the consultation we were looking at year one and year two, but the majority of people won’t have looked at the separate years, just the overall savings.

“So to a degree we can still use the report and it is still worthwhile, although there isn’t nearly enough savings in it.

“As an administration we’re getting hammered for going out to consultation so early, but I now know of five or six councils who are pinned against the wall to just try and do some sort of consultation.”

Part of this year’s budget is supposed to be made up of Joint Integration Board (JIB) funding which is pulling together council and NHS services.

However with the JIB budget not being set until March Councillor Burrows says there is millions of pounds they can’t include.

He said: “John Swinney wants a response by February 9, but we are sitting here and don’t know what the full situation is.

“We could estimate getting around £10 million from the JIB and budget for that, but if we don’t receive that much it obviously leads to further problems, so we just have to ignore it.”