Council faces £32m budget gap in next three years

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Fife Council is facing a £32m budget gap by 2022, it was revealed this week.

Councillors at the policy and co-ordination committee heard that the authority will have a massive shortfall by the financial year 2021/22.

In the next financial year, it  is facing a £9.4m hole, and will have to consider making savings of five per cent every financial year to cope

The biggest pressures on budgets weres education and children’s services (48 per cent or £406.7m), followed by health and social care (17 per cent or £143.3m) and loan charges (8 per cent or £64.8m).

This leaves the council with just £229.7m – 27 per cent of its budget – to maintain services for every other area, such as environment and communities.

The report also proposed increasing council tax by the maximum amount of three per cent every financial year to generate more income.

Councillors raised concerns about the relatively low number of reserves held – the second lowest percentage of usable reserves  in comparison with all other Scottish authorities.

But Councillor David Ross, co-leader,  said: “We have had discussion around this level of balances.

“Other local authorities may not have dealt with with scale of equal pay yet, as we have, so they may have funds set aside for that, making the reserve look bigger.

“It’s good to hold some things off for a rainy day – well it’s raining now.

“Our balance has been reduced by £6m this year, so it makes it right to hold on to a small amount of reserves so services aren’t being cut but there is still funding for unforeseen problems.”

Eileen Rowand, executive director, finance and corporate sServices added: “We have just over three per cent in reserves – guidelines state we should hold between two to four per cent, so we are within that.

“Being second lowest just means that other councils are holding onto more money.”

The budget will be set at the end of February, where many services will be faced with making savings.