Council budget will see an increase to council tax

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Tuesday’s council budget meeting saw £16 million of spending cuts approved, but money also ring-fenced for flood prevention in Newton Stewart and anti-poverty projects.

To boost the council’s coffers to cover the costs, council tax is set to rise by three per cent across the board.

The administration’s budget proposal will fund £2.5m in anti-poverty initiatives, including rolling out free breakfast clubs in our primary schools; £2m extra investment in our region’s roads, including a £720,000 fund for pothole “hit squads”; £3.8m increase in the education budget, including an extra £400,000 for additional learning support assistants; £1m in a town centre living fund, to bring empty properties back into use for housing; £500k to create inclusive play areas – play parks fully accessible for disabled children; £100k extra to support community transport; flood prevention schemes for Newton Stewart and Langholm; £150k to fund the development of a ‘Borderlands Deal’ to attract investment into the region; freezing charges for sport and leisure and burial charges, and scrapping all charges for child burials; reviewing social care charges, including removing war veterans pensions in the calculation of income for charges.

Council leader Ronnie Nicholson said: “Since I became leader of this council, the administration has relentlessly pursued the priorities that matter most to the people of Dumfries and Galloway- protecting our most vulnerable; giving our children and young people the very best start in life and supporting our region’s economy.

“There can be no more important priority than education. Despite significant cuts to our core funding by the government, the budget I propose will mean spending on education will rise by almost £1m next year, thanks to extra funding for learning support and to deliver breakfast clubs in primary schools.

“That increase in education funding is over £3.8m if you include the attainment fund. Those breakfast clubs are a key part of our continued commitment to tackle poverty in our region.

“I am proud that under this administration, Dumfries and Galloway’s first ever anti-poverty strategy was agreed, and this budget sets out over £2.5m of new initiatives to support that strategy.

“As well as those breakfast clubs, our new £350,000 per year local anti-poverty fund will support local community projects through area committees and our Links to Work programme will help support more people back into work in some of our most deprived areas.

“And our budget will also to tackle flooding with plans to invest nearly £9m towards two new flood protection schemes for Langholm and Newton Stewart.

“As our budget document makes clear, we have resisted the proposal from the Scottish Government to remove the full £2.4m of funding from the health and social care partnership. Doing so would have meant increasing social care charges, which we are not prepared to do.”