Fifers braced for more council cuts

Fife House, Glenrothes.
Fife House, Glenrothes.

FIFERS are bracing themselves for more cuts as the council prepares to set its budget for the coming financial year.

Councillors will meet next Thursday at Fife House in Glenrothes to agree how to distribute the Kingdom’s funds — and where savings should be made.

Council tax is expected to be frozen for the sixth consecutive year, in line with Scottish Government policy.

But with the local authority having to save £90 million by 2015, cutbacks will be necessary across all departments if the Kingdom is to balance its books.

Council finance officials have drawn up a list of nearly 200 savings suggestions for political groups to consider when setting their own proposed budgets.

In education, those include cuts to the school music service (saving £666,000), realignment of the school day (£1.3 million) and revision of class sizes (£1.3 million).

Suggestions elsewhere include an increase in charges for meals on wheels and community alarms (£481,000), changes to the concessionary rail scheme (£150,000) and reductions in support for sport and culture.

TOUGH

The ruling SNP/Liberal Democrat administration — whose proposals are likely to be voted through — has already warned that tough decisions will have to be made amid continuing pressure on public sector finances.

But leading councillors have also vowed to invest and improve standards in key areas such as education, social work and transport.

Details of the administration’s spending and savings will not be revealed until the day — a policy that has been criticised by opposition groups.

Conservative councillor Dave Dempsey said: “In past years, budget submissions have appeared on the day, allowing little time for consideration and leading to a sterile debate.

“Last summer, the political groups on the council discussed sharing ideas at an earlier stage, but one of the other parties couldn’t go along with that, so the idea died.

“However, we still think it was a good idea so we’ve released our proposals ahead of budget day.”

Among the Tories’ suggestions is the introduction of a ‘local communities empowerment budget’, which would devolve some control over spending to area or ward level.