In a first for the Kingdom, Fife Council is asking Fifers for their views on suggestions for budget savings to help meet the big challenge of saving £100 million over the next four years.
The move has been agreed by the leaders of all political groups as a way of involving communities in the budget, and making the process more transparent and open.
Information on the Big Change Challenge and details of the savings suggestions can be found online at www.fifedirect.org.uk/bigchange from today (Friday).
Council Leader Alex Rowley said: “This is the first step in a process that will see the council make more informed budget decisions in February next year.
“We are facing the biggest financial and social challenges in our history. While demand for our services is going up, the resources we have to fund them are going down.
“We want people to become involved and give us their views on the suggestions that have been put forward by council services to help make savings. These are now online with options for people to agree, disagree and comment.
“We will then decide which suggestions we take forward and include in our draft budget proposals which will be published in November for further consultation.
“Real changes are necessary and tough decisions are needed. Rest assured we will consider all the suggestions made before we make final decisions in February when we have a legal obligation to produce a balanced budget for Fife.”
The Council’s chief executive Steve Grimmond stressed the savings ideas on the new website have been suggested by services as ways of potentially meeting the budget challenge.
He said: “Some of these suggestions will be taken forward by councillors when preparing their budgets and some will not – but we hope that by publishing them in this way we can have informed debate around all the issues.”
Like the rest of the UK, Fife’s economy has been hit hard over the last 10 years, 4000 jobs have been lost, output has fallen and the number of young people claiming job seekers allowance is up 11.5 per cent - twice the Scottish average.
The introduction of the UK Government’s programme of welfare benefit cuts and reforms has added new pressures to families, with the Council estimating the average income loss for working-age Fife households is £480 per year – but considerably more for some.
Cllr Rowley added: “Against this background our aim is to focus on front-line services and continue to improve what we do. And we have important choices to make. Do we stop delivering services that are lower priority? Do we change what we do? Do we commission or support others to deliver services on our behalf? Do we increase charges for services or reduce the amount we subsidise services?
“It’s important that we listen to the views and opinions of the people that are using our services every day and I would urge Fifers to get involved and take the opportunity to have their say.”