700 jobs to go as Fife Council faces budget deficit

Fife Council faces a �77m budget deficit
Fife Council faces a �77m budget deficit

AT least 700 jobs will go over the next three years – with the likelihood of more to follow – as Fife Council attempts to reduce its £77m budget deficit.

The Council’s Labour administration this week published its draft budget, outlining a range of proposed cuts across all services.

While it was stressed these proposals are for consultation, and not set in stone, it’s clear if some of the cuts don’t go ahead savings will have to be found elsewhere.

Council leader David Ross acknowledged many of the proposals would be viewed as controversial.

But he added: “If we are going to keep services running we have to take some tough decisions.

“Local government is having to change and we are having to look at doing things in different ways.”

Cllr Ross said no service would be immune. All have been asked to find ‘efficiency savings’.

“Areas such as education will always be sensitive,” he said. “But education takes up the greatest proportion of our budget – 51 per cent – and we have to find some savings there.”

Some of the savings proposed include increasing class sizes in secondary schools, cutting back the music service and reducing school transport provision.

In other areas, such as transport and the environment, there are proposed reductions in road maintenance, cuts to subsidised bus services and possible increases in car parking charges.

Cllr Ross said: “All the so-called easier savings have already been made, so we are now having to take some really tough decisions.

“None of us came into local government to make decisions like this. There is plenty in the draft budget which the other parties could criticise, and there is stuff in there that I could have a go at too, but I hope they will work with us.

“I’m open to legitimate criticism and people putting forward alternative proposals, but just criticising and not contributing anything constructive will not be doing a service to the people of Fife.”

The draft budget is available to view on the Fife Direct website at www.fifedirect.org.uk/budget.

Cllr Ross added: “We want people to become involved and give us their views and suggestions on these proposals so that we can make a well-informed decision when we finally set the budget in February.”

‘Misleading’ draft budget doesn’t add up, says SNP

Fife Council’s SNP group has dismissed the Labour administration’s draft budget, calling it “incomplete and grossly misleading”.

And Councillor Peter Grant, SNP group leader, claimed the draft budget seriously understated the implications of some proposed cuts.

He said: “To give just one example, the Labour administration says it is proposing to shift the balance of home care. What the draft budget doesn’t say is that this means privatising part of the home care service to save money.

“If Labour wants to have a debate about privatising social work services that’s up to them, but it’s dishonest to ask the public to support this proposal without telling them what it really means.

“We have a similar situation in education. We know Labour wants to get rid of 41 teaching jobs by increasing class sizes in secondary schools. It’s not clear whether they want to do the same in primary schools and axe a further 61 posts.”

Cllr Grant also claimed the draft budget appeared to leave a multi-million pound gap in social work funding, pointing out a report to the executive committee on Tuesday stated social work and children’s services were likely to overspend this year by £16.5m, but Labour’s budget proposed an increase of just over £6m in next year’s budget, leaving a £10m shartfall.

He said: “The only likely explanation is that there are further cuts somewhere else in the Council that they’re not telling us about.

“The SNP are ready and willing to take part in an honest and responsible debate about how Fife faces up to the continuing impact of the economic collapse of 2008, but we can only have that debate if the administration is honest in what it is telling the public.”