Public get their say on council spending cuts

Taxpayers wanting to have their say regarding how Dumfries and Galloway Council spend their money turned out in force last Thursday night for a community consultation with the local authority over its draft budget for the next three years.

Glenluce Hall was packed with both community leaders and members of the public interested in hearing what belt-tightening measures council officers were planing to trim £27 million, or £25,000 a day, from spending over the next three years. On the other hand, the council officials and elected members wanted to hear from the public which proposed cuts to achieve this were acceptable and which weren’t.

The council receive a revenue budget of £340 million a year. This comprises of a gross spend of £395 million offset by fees and charges of £55 million. The money comes from three sources: £230 million from the Scottish Government through the revenue support grant; £61 million from council tax and £49 million from non-domestic rates. The £27 million savings target means cuts of £7.6 million in 2014-15 and £10 million in both 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The public were split into three groups where council officers canvassed their opinions. The results were a mixed bag. One group though that cuts in youth employment projects, sustaining care at home service and education were the most acceptable cuts while others were against cutting spending here. Most agreed that reducing grass cutting in some cemeteries to three times a year instead of 15 was not acceptable as was reducing the number of checks on council vehicles as this could be a safety issue.

Residents informed the cash-strapped council they could make some money by introducing parking fees in towns and save pennies by sharing resources like photocopiers and printers between departments. One resident huffed that the council should stop wasting money on “silly public consultations and listen to what people want”!

This year the council aim to reduce spending by transferring the management of more village halls to community groups, cut back library opening hours and could save over £13,000 a year by cutting the grass just three times a year in burial grounds with less than two per cent usage.

The feedback from the draft budget meetings in the four areas served by Dumfries and Galloway Council will be published today. (Friday 24).