It’s budget balancing time

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DUMFRIES and Galloway Council members were locked in debate yesterday afternoon when attempting to slash savings of £6 million from their budget.

Originally faced with cutting more than £14 million, the council has already agreed to savings of £8.12 million plus a £725,000 reduction in the police budget.

The savings have been found through staff reductions, efficiency and budget savings.

The council has also introduced an early retirement/voluntary redundancy process which aims to save about £4 million.

The ruling Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition partners are aware that they, or any other administration, face significant saving requirements in upcoming financial years as the Scottish Government tries to balance the books following a cut in funding from Westminster.

Advice to councillors was to ensure that yesterday’s budget provided “some flexibility for future years”, contributing towards the need to make further spending reductions beyond 2011/12.

more savings this time round could mean less to find in future but before the full council meeting had got under way yesterday morning the Labour group had already slammed the Tory/Lib Dem budget. It called the coalition’s draft budget “vindictive and dishonest” after it proposed cuts of £2 million more than required.

This, Labour claimed, would hit the elderly and disabled with a 100 per cent increase in care charges and massive cuts in teachers and classroom assistants.

In response the group proposed:

l £2 million less in cuts than the administration, including reducing by £600,000 the planned increase in care charges.

l £1 million fewer cuts in teachers and classroom assistants, by not cutting primary teachers or classroom assistants and maintaining the existing formula for secondary school teachers, rejecting the Tory/Lib Dem admin-istration’s plan to cut 28 jobs.

l Scrapping ‘blue badge’ charges for the disabled.

l Introducing a Living Wage of £7.15 per hour , ending the scandal of poverty pay for the 1,000 lowest paid council employees.