Books balanced by ‘prudent planning’

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AS Fifers reel from what’s been called the Kingdom’s ‘toughest ever’ budget, people living in the neighbouring local authority area appear to have got off relatively lightly.

Perth and Kinross Council set its budget last Thursday and its leaders declared that they were ‘proud’ of what had been achieved in the face of ‘unprecedented’ financial challenges.

Council tax for 2011-12 has been frozen for the fifth year running and almost £2 million will be invested in key community initiatives over the next three years, while leaders remain confident that its savings target of £23 million will be met.

Councillor Ian Miller, leader of the SNP/Liberal Democrat administration, said that it was prudent planning that had enabled the council to balance its books without any compulsory redundancies amongst its 6000-strong workforce.

“We took £7 million out of last year’s budget to help protect services in the face of this year’s reduced resources,” he commented.

“We have looked for efficiencies that would bring immediate savings, and for opportunities to reduce or redesign services, or increase charges, so that services are sustainable in the longer term.

“Even although we are already a lean council in terms of the number of staff we have relative to the population we serve, we will continue to manage a reduction in our workforce.

A range of workforce management measures have been in place since November 2009 to support this, including redeployment training, retraining, work sharing and voluntary severance.”

Among the services that will receive further funding over the next three years are telecare services aimed at helping elderly people live safely in their own homes; early intervention programmes for vulnerable children; employability services for young people and people with learning disabilities or affected by substance misuse, and economic development initiatives.

Cash will also be invested in extra garden and food waste bins for householders to encourage recycling and, through a combination of Scottish government and council funding, an extra £1.157 million will be spent on local road repairs.

While more than twice the size of Fife, Perth and Kinross has less than half the population.

Combining two former counties, it extends from Highland Perthshire down into what is still known as Kinross-shire, an area encompassing Kinross, Milnathort and surrounding villages.