Fife Budget: What councillors agreed

Council Tax up 4.84%, rents up 3%, and more than £5m worth of cuts to services.
Pic: Craig StephenPic: Craig Stephen
Pic: Craig Stephen

Councillors will also review the school week which could see more changes for teachers.

Council leaders admitted the cuts would hit communities – but they had little room to move.

The local authority faced a near £15m budget black hole.

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Raising Council Tax by the maximum allowed of 4.84 per cent will net almost £8m in revenue.

But Councillor David Ross (Labour) co-leader, said: “Quite honestly I’m sick and tired of coming to this chamber with another list of cuts.

“These cuts will hurt our local communities and people. 

“We’ll do our best to protect our local services, but, make no mistake, these continual cuts are having a real impact.”
He said the council faced with a budget gap of around £10m – and that was before taking into account education and health and social care are both overspending by that amount. 

He added: “It’s like putting a plaster over a gaping wound. We really need to see an end to these playground games around the budget.”

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Putting forward a proposal for a 4.84 per cent Council Tax rise, he accepted it would be an added burden to people struggling to pay bills.

“I’m angry at the Tory Government for 10 years of austerity. I’m angry at the Scottish Government,” he said.

“But we will go on fighting for local people so they won’t lose the services they deserve.”

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His co-leader, Councillor David Alexander (SNP) said the local authority faced “increasingly difficult decisions.”

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He added: “If the whole of the public sector didn’t have to spend so much mitigating austerity we’d have more money to spend. Benefit reduction reached £153m for the people of Fife. Each adult has around £655 less in their pockets each year.

“The impact is devastating. We invest heavily to prevent poverty, in things like rent arrears and holiday hunger – the cost of mitigating Tory policies is enormous.”

Liberal Democrat James Calder proposed an amendment which would have delivered fewer cuts from parks and streets, and more to tackle climate change.

Cllr Calder said: “Why are local services not a priority? Teachers have been taking much of the brunt of savings. Stress levels have increased and know increased pressures on staff have caused much of this. We must reverse this, and if local government was properly funded this would make a great start.”

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Conservative leader Dave Dempsey also put forward his party’s proposals, adding: “I remember a time when Labour budgets had ideas. It makes me sad we don’t see that.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. You have a once in a year opportunity to vote for a budget that shows imagination. 

“We would restore services valued by the public. I cease to understand why we encourage the public to do things then penalise them when they do.

“We need to do things differently. Doing things the same way is not going to get us out of the downward spiral we find ourselves in. We’ve set aside funds to explore to do things differently.”

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However, the joint SNP-Labour budget proposal won the day with 55 votes.

David Farmer, Fife’s EIS spokesman, said it was” the ‘least worst budget’ but was “depressing and dispiriting particularly for education.

He added: ““The headline cut phrased as ‘Review of Devolved school Management to include a review of the secondary school week’ again puts our members in secondary schools in the firing line as they were last year with managing change.

“We have no idea what ‘review’ means here although we strongly suspect that part of it will be the removal of registration from secondary school timetables. For students most in need of support the removal of this point of contact and stability makes no sense.

“It makes even less sense when taken in tandem with a ‘review of attendance officers’.

“It will be the students most in need of support and their families who will be most impacted.”