FIFE Council has passed what have been described as ‘some of the deepest and most sustained funding cuts local government has ever seen’.
The local budget, proposed by the SNP/Lib Dem administration, was put through on Thursday amid acknowledgements it was one of the most difficult budgets ever passed by any Fife local authority.
With more than £33 million worth of savings contained in the papers, leader of the Council Peter Grant told Fife’s 75 councillors present difficult decision had to be made, and if they were avoided the situation is likely only to become worse.
In his opening speech, Councillor Grant said: “Some of the decisions we’ll take today, and some of the decisions we’ve had to take already, have been ones we never expected to have to take.
‘‘We’ve taken those decisions because we’ve faced up to the fact that if you put off difficult decisions they don’t go away, they become even more difficult.”
Cllr Grant added that the proposals put forward by the administration were part of “the most radical and fundamental change any of us has seen”, but focused on the needs of Fifers.
Although all of the councillors who spoke in the chamber on Thursday recognised the difficult nature of setting this year’s budget, the meeting was not without political mud-slinging - with many local members blaming opposing parties for the problems that have led to the current financial situation.
On Thursday Labour put forward a motion for three weeks of consultation to take place before the budget is passed, to allow local groups and opposition parties time to look over the administration’s proposals.
However, this was shot down by Cllr Grant as “financial lunacy.’’
He claimed Labour’s budget would have brought the Council to the brink of disaster.
“Labour’s budget would have meant no money to pay voluntary severance costs to minimise compulsory redundancies, would have run down the Council’s balances to an unsustainable level, and would have seen social work spending cut at a time of unprecedented demand for services,” he added.
Cllr Grant continued: “We’ve been able to avoid decisions that would have led to large scale closures of schools, of libraries, of at least one public swimming pool, and of at least one of our theatres.
‘‘We’ve avoided any reduction in the budget for subsidised bus services and we continue to provide school transport well beyond what we are legally required to do, and beyond what we are funded to do.”