Yet more budget misery

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Frontline services could be slashed after it was revealed Dumfries and Galloway Council face a potential funding gap of nearly £100 million over the next five years.

Elected members will be warned at next Tuesday’s meeting of the full council in Dumfries that tackling this massive hole in the finances will mean a “radically different council because of the impact on activities and resources”.

The looming funding gap is estimated to be between £64 and £98 million, before council tax increases are applied, meaning the savings required to meet the budget equate to 19 to 29 per cent of the current annual revenue spending and this challenge will require “ruthless” prioritisation of council expenditure.

The change is due to the Scottish Government stopping giving local authorities multi-year tranches of funding and replacing this with a single year at a time settlement, taking away much of the council’s certainty on what figures to base its long term spending strategy on.

One option that the council is looking at to generate revenue is increasing the council tax. Band D council tax in Dumfries and Galloway of £1,080 is £93 (7.9 per cent) below the nation average, meaning the amount raised is £5.4 million short of the national average.

But any increase in council tax levels must be approved by elected members before it can be implemented. The budget faces increasing demand for care services, but must also retain teacher numbers.

The council are so concerned about how communities will react to the eye-watering level of cuts it is facing, it is considering making presentations in towns and villages to help the public and stakeholders understand the budget process and also to improve the quality of information the council delivers.

Council budgets nationally have been hit as the Scottish Government has committed to increasing the NHS revenue by £500 million by 2021.