Budget lays foundations for difficult future

Cllr Peter Grant
Cllr Peter Grant
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FIFE’S budget will “drive the Kindgom forward” and provide a good legacy for whichever administration takes power after May’s elections.

Fife Council leader Peter Grant said it would lay firm foundations for very difficult times ahead, for the local authority and the whole economy.

As councillors last week agreed to invest £825 million in services over the next year, Cllr Grant added: “We can’t fix all the problems, but we owe it to the people of Fife to do all we can.”

Over £4 million will be invested in social work services to help care for Fife’s elderly, vulnerable adults and children, and £9 million will help improve the Kingdom’s roads in the next five years.

Almost £3 million will go towards assisting children, families and the elderly deal with potential problems through early intervention.

Council tax will be frozen at £1118 for a Band D property for the fifth consecutive year, while there will be no rise in charges for community alarm services, school milk, school meals, breakfast clubs or home care.

The council also approved a £19 million savings package, which included scaling down the funding given to other organisations and increasing some charges for services in line with inflation.

Council house rents, however, will rise by only 4.6 per cent.

Around £200,000 could be saved with the widespread closure of public toilets, with more businesses being encouraged to open up their toilet facilities for members of the public under the Comfort Break scheme.

Cllr Grant said there would be no school closures after this year’s budget discussions but warned this may not be sustainable in future.

Almost £2.3 million would be saved by introducing new shift patterns for refuse collection. A review of how the council delivered social work services, allowing elderly people to stay in their own homes for longer, “will continue to make savings”.

Labour claimed public safety could be compromised by the removal of 10 equivalent full-time equivalent vacant posts from Fife Fire and Rescue Service, saving £300,000 a year, while the council claimed the number of firefighters would stay the same through the management of holidays and shift patterns.

A £5 million fund was created to increase jobs, while Labour announced its own five-point plan for jobs and said the SNP-LibDem coaltion’s decisions would throw people out of work.