Budget: Fife councillors lay out spending plans for life after lockdown

Fife Council will spend nearly £10 million on repairing the Kingdom's roads over the next two years under budget plans unveiled by its joint administration.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 1:46 pm

The SNP-Labour-controlled authority says it is aiming to look beyond the pandemic with a £2.9 million investment in the local economy, a further £7.5 million for tourism and community facilities and £0.5 million for anti-poverty measures.

Elsewhere, council co-leaders David Ross (Lab) and David Alexander (SNP) propose spending £5.4 million on mitigating flood risks, nearly £1 million on local parks and another £1 million on remote learning devices for Fife's children and young people to see out the remainder of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the long term, they plan to invest almost a billion pounds in the region between now and 2031, including over £300 million on new schools.

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Fife House, HQ of Fife Council

The co-leaders will lay out their proposals in full at a meeting of Fife Council on Thursday, where they are expected to present proposals of a rare opportunity for "significant reinvestment" in council services.

In a joint statement being presented to councillors, the co-leaders are expected to say: "The impacts of the pandemic will be far-reaching and it will take many months for things to return to anything like normality, and some things will have changed forever.

"For that reason, it is still difficult to predict the additional costs of Covid the council will have to meet over the next two years such as additional cleaning and safety measures, or the continuing loss of income due to facilities being shut, such as swimming pools, leisure centres and theatres.

"We recognise there will continue to be pressure on council budgets in future years, but we believe it is right to make these investments in our services and our priorities now, to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and assist with Fife’s recovery.

Co-leaders, David Alexander and David Ross

"These budgets will enhance what we already do and create new opportunities throughout the Kingdom”.

Fife's first post-Covid budget has seen the creation of a £34.5 million war chest, largely made up of one-off central government grants, that it intends to use to mitigate some of the long-term impacts of the pandemic.

The administration has promised to present detailed proposals later in the year once Covid-19's impact on the coming financial year is clearer.

The Conservative opposition group will table its own amendments, proposing a road repair fund, longer opening hours for leisure halls and recycling centres and a specialist flytipping squad.

Group leader Cllr Dave Dempsey has also proposed putting more decision-making into the hands of local councillors by devolving more of the council's budgets to Fife's local area committees.

He said: "For too long, our political masters have practiced centrally controlled decentralisation, saying all the right things but keeping their hands on the cash needed to actually make things happen.

“As we come out the pandemic, we need to do better than before.”

Council tax will be frozen at current rates with a gift of £5.8 million from the government that will deliver the extra income that a 3% rise would have brought without passing the cost on to residents.

The council's government grant has risen by 2.74% to a total of £725.312 million - but when ringfenced grants and other bonuses are excluded, the rise in core-funding is 1.17%.

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