The spiralling costs of caring for the elderly and looking after vulnerable children has contributed to a £20m projected overspend across Fife Council’s services.
And SNP group leader Peter Grant has warned the escalating budget problem can’t be allowed to go unchecked.
He has called on the Labour-led administration to “show true political leadership” before the situation threatens the financial stability of the Council.
But Labour councillors have hit back, insisting the financial difficulties are due to increasing demand for services, against a backdrop of cuts by the UK Government and insufficient funding from the Scottish Government.
Cllr Grant said the real scale of the problem was not immediately apparent because the Council has benefitted from one-off ‘windfalls’ such as lower than anticipated loan charges, pay awards and inflation - but that it couldn’t rely on that happening every year.
He added: “If the administration don’t start to show proper political leadership, the £20m overspend won’t just go away - in fact it’s likely to get worse next year. If that happens we could see the Council’s uncommitted balances of £22m used up by the end of next year.”
Cllr Grant insisted it was incumbent on Labour to do something about it, but seemed to be in denial about the scale of the problem, instead blaming the Scottish Government and the previous SNP-led administration.
However, Cllr Gavin Yates, spokesman for health and wellbeing said the growth in demand for services – particularly care packages for the elderly and an increasing need to provide care placements for children – had far exceeded what could be reasonably anticipated.
He added every council in Scotland was facing similar budgetary challenges.
He said: “The SNP Group has conveniently ignored that fact that if social work had not exceeded the current budget, hundreds of older people, disabled people and children would have been left without a service.
“They might think that is a price worth paying to have greater balances left in Council coffers, the vast majority of Fifers do not.
“This Council will continue to do everything we can to balance risk with the inadequate funding that we have from the SNP Government.
“I’d hope Peter Grant might use his influence on his friends in Edinburgh and add his voice to Labour’s to campaign for a fairer deal for Fifers.”