Fife Council braced for budget cuts

Fife House
Fife House
  • Fife face £32m of savings next year
  • Leader calls for cross-party action
  • Councillors fear worst case scenario

Councillors are braced for an unwanted Christmas gift – more budget cuts.

They will get the Scottish Government’s figures on December 15, and are prepared for the worst.

The latest financial forecasts point to a massive £115m black hole over the next three years, and that will mean more cuts to services.

The budget meeting scheduled for February has already been delayed to give councillors more time to assess the impact of having to find savings of around £32m next year, and they have already instructed officers to work on the basis of 90 per cent of their current budgets.

Fife Council was aware the figures weren’t going to be good after being handed three possible scenarios last August – but they have now been told to expect a ‘‘pessimistic or worse’’ budget shortfall from now to the end of the decade.

And if the grant from the Scottish Government is chopped more than anticipated, services will be squeezed again.

Latest estimates suggest Fife will have to find savings of £32m next year, rising to £70m in 2018/19 and £115m by 2020.

Councillor David Ross, council leader, commented: “There is still uncertainty around the council’s financial future as we don’t yet know the detail of the Scottish Government’s local government finance settlement.

“Our share of that money will not be known until later next month.

“However, we are planning ahead and asking council services to plan for a future based on 90% of their current budgets by 2020.”

Proposals from all political groups will be published ahead of the budget meeting rather than on the day – and Councillor Ross again called on all parties to work together.

He said: “Council services have now put forward savings proposals that all political groups will consider before publishing final budget proposals.

“I’m suggesting that we delay our budget meeting in February to allow more time for all proposals to be considered and discussed and potentially reach agreement on common ground.

“It’s vital that we work together for the future of our services and that the people of Fife have the opportunity to see and understand what’s being proposed and agreed.”