The local authority are looking for suggestions from the people of Dumfries and Galloway where to trim £20 million from the budget after their funding was cut by the Scottish Government with the first consutation today in the DG Custoner Service Centre in the Library, Newton Stewart, from 2pm to 4pm.
The looming austerity for the region could see the first increase in council tax for nine year to try and make local government ends meet.
A Council spokesperson said: “It is no secret that our Council is currently facing significant financial challenges due to the reduction in funding from Scottish Government.
“Through our hard hitting budget measures we have already managed to save £52million since 2012. We have done this by reviewing services, rationalising jobs and reducing staff costs, reducing energy and transport costs, and rationalising our buildings.
“However, this is not enough. We warned in a Full Council report in June to expect further financial cutbacks and that key factors would influence future financial challenges; particularly the Scottish Government’s spending review and budget, details of which should be available around December this year.
“The report stressed that it was important to recognise that commitments made by the Scottish Government to protect certain areas such as Health and Policing are expected to result in further, potentially significant cash reductions for non-protected areas - including local government. Because of this we anticipate that we need to find another £20M of savings in 2017/18.
“We are continuing to make savings by continuing to reduce our staff costs, in order to save another £2.5M, and by implementing the recommendations from our service reviews, which will produce a further reduction in costs.
“In addition we are reviewing our fees and charges across all services to ensure that we are in line with the rest of the country and ensuring that concessions are available for people who need that support. This is expected to generate a saving of £0.9m.
“Unfortunately it is not possible to trim our provision back year on year and still provide the vital services that people need. Sadly this means that the conversation is now about which services can be axed. Local people need to understand that the cuts we are facing are not of the Council’s making, but, because of the financial challenges, some Services will either have to be charged for or terminated completely.
“In preparation for this our Council is now instigating a public consultation process. The consultation asks the public for suggestions on which services our Council could charge for or stop providing. It also asks whether the public will support a council tax rise: by raising our Council tax by 3%, which for an average property in our region would be about £34 per year, following a freeze of nine years, we would be able to raise an extra £1.8M to be spent on essential services.
“To have your say or to find out more information please fill in our consultation at: www.dumgal.gov.uk/budget or visit your local Customer Service Centre or library.
“We also have a dedicated email inbox: firstname.lastname@example.org and dedicated sessions on our Facebook page: follow ‘Dumfries and Galloway Council’. Or come along to one of the information sessions being held in communities across the region:
“During September and October 2016 we are coming to talk to you in communities across our region - please go to http://www.dumgal.gov.uk/budget to find a place near you. Please note updated dates for Community meetings.”
Council Leader Ronnie Nicholson said: “I warned earlier this year that if anyone believed that this was the end of the cuts then they were likely to be very disappointed, as everything points to the Scottish Government continuing to reduce our funding. This is why the debate is now about what we can axe rather than shrink. We have already lost a lot of staff; unfortunately the knock on effect of this is that some services that will have to stop as there won’t be enough people to deliver them. In addition we are currently reshaping our services in order to deliver them in a more efficient and effective way: this may result in some services disappearing altogether.
“However, we also need to look at other ways where we can generate more income, for example, by marginally increasing Council Tax or charging for some services. To do this we need you to let us know what you think by giving us feedback and completing our consultation. We are committed to working together with our communities and to listening to local people in order to continue our provision of what people need, as best we can, but we need to hear your thoughts on how this could be done more efficiently.”