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Council budget agreed

West Lothian Council has agreed its budget for 2018/19 and a long-term financial plan that will deliver local services. The plan will also begin to bridge a £65 million budget gap over the next five years.

13 February

The council will invest over £408 million to deliver local services. The budget will focus on priority areas such as; West Lothian's schools, social care and services for vulnerable people.

The Scottish Government - who provide the council with 80% of its funding - has given the council a real terms decrease in core funding of £7.5 million for 2018/19. However, West Lothian's population is expected to increase by 10,000 over the next five years, increasing demand for council services such as schools and social care. This, combined with rising costs for services, means that the council's budget gap totals nearly £14 million for 2018/19 and £65 million over the next five years (2018/19 - 2022/23).

To enable the council to balance its budget a number of changes to existing services are necessary and have been approved. The council's Transforming Your Council consultation attracted a record number of responses and a number of suggestions put forward have been agreed by the council.

Council Tax - which provides 19% of the council's funding - has been increased for the first time in over ten years.  Council Tax will increase by 3% across all bands in 2018/19 and a 3% increase is planned for each of the next four-years between 2019/20 and 2022 /23. * (see note at bottom of page)

70% of respondents who took part in the Transforming Your Council consultation agreed with the proposal to raise Council Tax by 3% each of the next five years.

Speaking after the council budget meeting, Leader of West Lothian Council, Councillor Lawrence Fitzpatrick said:

"Next year the council will invest a further £408 million in West Lothian's public services. Prioritising key areas such schools, roads, social care and care for vulnerable people.

"The council's aim is to continue to build upon our successes to date with £154 million being invested in education next year, over £105 million on social services, and around £62 million on maintaining West Lothian's roads, paths, open spaces, waste services, community facilities and infrastructure."

Councillor Fitzpatrick added: 

"We are no different to any other Scottish council in that we cannot spend what we don't have, and changes to services are inevitable given the scale of the cuts to our budget.

"By the end of this five-year period, the council will have had to cut around £157 million from its budget in a fifteen-year period. The figures are stark and illustrate the challenges that we face.

"This is not of our making and nobody at the council wants to make cuts however, we can only spend the funding we have available. The council must, legally, provide statutory services and we have an increasing number of elderly and younger people in West Lothian that need council services. 

"Scottish Government Grant funding is insufficient to meet the increasing costs and demand for services.

"Not balancing the budget is not an option, and it comes down to making the best choices for our local communities.

"The council will continue to build upon a sound and solid foundation and to improve local services in West Lothian.

"We believe that we are one of the best placed local authorities in Scotland in terms of our future financial and corporate planning. We've consulted with local people on proposed budget measure and our future priorities, and we've taken decisions based on the feedback that we received."

In addition to agreeing a budget, the council has agreed a new Icon for pdf Corporate Plan [4.67MB] which sets out the councils priorities over the next five years. The plan is closely linked to the council's budget to ensure that investment on services meets the needs of local communities. By agreeing a long term financial plan, the council will be able to respond proactively to the magnitude of the challenge in delivering essential services whilst financial resources are constrained. Audit Scotland has identified the need for public bodies to focus their medium to long-term financial sustainability and have a five-year plan in place.

By agreeing a five year budget, the council aims to ensure that there is certainty for local communities and staff and to provide sufficient time to implement changes to delivers savings.

Key areas of investment in 2018/19 include:

  • Funding for school clothing grants & breakfast clubs  
  • Funding for school holiday clubs
  • Funding for Discretionary Housing Payments to mitigate the impact of the Bedroom Tax
  • Additional funding for early years numeracy and literacy
  • Year-on-year increases in school budgets and care for the elderly services to meet demand for services
  • Social care and health initiatives
  • Funding for homelessness
  • Continue to pay the Living Wage to council staff, social care contractors and West Lothian leisure staff
  • Continue to support public bus services with subsidies
  • Continue to fund Community Recycling Centres in West Lothian which will remain open
  • Free brown bin usage
  • Retain the three existing day care centres at the Ability Centre at Carmondean, Eliburn and Pathways
  • Funding to keep Fauldhouse Swimming Pool open
  • Funding to retain a substantial level of instrumental music provision
  • Funding to protect mainstream school transport
  • Funding to protect Additional Support Needs (ASN), homelessness and medical transport scheme
  • Funding to protect the concessionary rail scheme

Agreed changes to services over the next five years include:

Income and contributions:

West Lothian Council has one of the lowest levels of income through sales, fees and charges per head of population in Scotland - compared to other Scottish councils.

To raise income, which will then be used to protect services, the council is introducing charges from 1 April 2018 for the following:

  • A charge of £25 for bulky uplifts (85% of Scottish local authorities already charge for bulky uplifts. The remaining provides one free uplift and levy a charge thereafter.  West Lothian Council is currently the only local authority to provide three free uplifts)
  • A charge for developers/housebuilders for new waste collections bins
  • A £20 administrative charge for the issuing of new blue badges to bringing West Lothian into line with every other council in Scotland (all Scottish Local Authorities currently charge for this service. All bar one charge the maximum charge set out by The Scottish Government amended legislation 2006 of £20)
  • Charging for some council owned car parks (the majority of other councils in Scotland charge for some car parks within their authority.  Blue badge holders will be able to continue to park for free)
  • Increase in community alarms and Telecare charges to match the Scottish average of £3.02 per week.  This will bring West Lothian into line with other Scottish councils
  • Introduction of a social care contributions policy where all non-residential care clients would be financially assessed to calculate the maximum contribution they might be expected to make to their care. The financial assessment will also include a benefits check for income maximisation to ensure that clients are receiving all the benefits that they are entitled to. Introducing a contributions policy will bring West Lothian into line with the vast majority of other Scottish councils

Staffing:

It is estimated that an additional 641 full time equivalent staff (FTE) will be required to meet growth in some areas.  This includes an additional 213 FTE teaching staff to meet projected increases in school rolls and an additional 340 FTE to deliver national childcare commitments, with an additional 87 FTE for school lunches and demographics in non education council services.

It is estimated that other areas of the council will reduce in terms of staffing numbers. Over the five years, it is estimated that there will be a reduction of 775 FTE.

The number of staff (FTE) working for West Lothian Council (1 January 2018) is 6,820. Overall, the council anticipates that net staffing numbers over the next five years will reduce overall by around 134 FTE staff members which equates to 2% of the council's total workforce.

Management & support costs:

  • West Lothian Council has one of the leanest senior management structures in Scotland but a wide number of service redesigns will be undertaken which will see major reductions in staffing levels, particularly in back office and support services.
  • West Lothian Council is amongst one of the lowest in terms of spending on internal support costs of all Scottish councils. Our support costs are already below the Scottish average. 
  • A number of internal processes will be reviewed going forward in a further effort to increase efficiency, including ensuring that more digital services are in place for customers.

Despite the council making drastic changes to working practices and staffing numbers, regrettably further changes are necessary to balance a budget gap of £65 million over the next five years.

These include:

  • Closure of Livingston and Whitdale Family Centres, with support for the most vulnerable families continuing on an outreach basis in local communities. Making greater use of community buildings to deliver outreach services will reduce the need for vulnerable families to have to travel.  Increases to early year education will provide additional early learning for 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year old children.
  • Closure of Limecroft and Whitdale House Day Care for older people. The day care centres within Limecroft Care Home and Whitdale Care Home will be closed, with day care provision for eligible older people provided exclusively through the existing externally commissioned service providers
  •  Removal of funding for Police Scotland
  • Revised opening hours at Community Recycling Centres to reflect current demand
  • The taxi card scheme will be removed but all customers can still access Dial-a-ride and Dial-a-bus
  • Reduced opening hours at Armadale, Whitburn, Blackburn and Broxburn CIS (the council will aim to alter opening hours in line with customer demand. CIS offices in Livingston and Bathgate will continue to operate from 8.30am to 5pm)
  • Promoting the Community Asset Transfer of some community centres, village halls and sport pavilions
  • Reduced cleaning levels in council buildings
  • There will be a review of winter service provision
  • Reductions in the overall funding to the voluntary sector to help ensure wider involvement in local decision making
  • Removal of funding for Business Improvement Districts
  • Raising the eligibility threshold for non-residential care services to substantial and critical for all new service users and existing service users at the point of review. Eligibility is determined through an assessment of needs which takes account of a person's informal networks and available community supports before a decision is made about whether formal care and support is required to maintain independence. 

Council Tax

Council Tax - which provides 19% of the council's funding - has been increased for the first time in over ten years.  Council Tax will increase by 3% across all bands in 2018/19 and a 3% increase is planned for each of the next four years between 2019/20 and 2022 /23. * (see note at bottom of page).

If Council Tax was not increased by 3% per annum this would increase the budget gap and a further £16.9 million of savings would have to be identified.

70% of respondents who took part in the Transforming Your Council consultation agreed with the proposal to raise Council Tax by 3% each of the next five years.

The changes for 2018/19 are set out below:

Council Tax Band

Number of Chargeable Dwellings

% of Chargeable Dwellings

Council Tax 2017/18

£

Council Tax 2018/19

£

A

16,902

21.9%

752.00

774.56

B

24,169

31.3%

877.33

903.65

C

9,771

12.7%

1,002.67

1,032.75

D

8,104

10.5%

1,128.00

1,161.84

E

9,504

12.3%

1,482.07

1,526.53

F

5,886

7.6%

1,833.00

1,887.99

G

2,656

3.5%

2,209.00

2,275.27

H

173

0.2%

2,763.60

2,846.51

Total

77,165

100.0%

 

 

 

* Bands E to H increased last year due to the Scottish Parliament approved revision of Council Tax banding weightings, which are out with the council's control.

Issued by corporate communications manager Garry Heron, Tel: 01506 282006

media@westlothian.gov.uk

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