Like other local authorities in Scotland, West Lothian Council faces constrained funding and substantial cost increases in the next five years. This means that the council, along with the West Lothian community, will have to make difficult decisions about local services. Reductions in local government public spending have impacted council services for over 15 years and the council has made over £150 million worth of savings since 2007/08.
The council faces a budget gap of £57.7 million over the five-year period 2023/24 - 2027/28 and significant budget reduction measures need to be agreed in order that the council can balance its budget - something the council has a legal obligation to do.
The council's WL2028 Your Council Your Say consultation will be carried out over three phases. Phases one and two of the consultation sought the views of local residents on the future direction of the council, on specific budget reduction measures put forward by council officers, and on the level of future council tax increases.
Phases one and two have concluded with Phase three due to progress in 2023/24.
Graham Hope, the council's Chief Executive said: "In preparation for the challenges ahead, we want to work with our communities and partners in shaping the future of local services in West Lothian. Feedback will help us become more sustainable, address the future funding gap and meet the challenges ahead. I'd like to thank all those that have taken the time to take part in the consultation to date.
"There is little doubt that, in future, our ability to deliver local services will have to change in the face of such stark reductions in our budget.
"The views of local people are extremely important and will help to shape the future of local services. Making tough decisions on reducing some local services is not an easy thing to do. Feedback provided through the consultation process will be used to help us become more sustainable, address the funding gap and meet the challenges ahead.
"The consultation process will also create a positive basis for future engagement, and also start a dialogue with stakeholders on some of the more complex and demanding aspects of policy that will underpin service change in the years ahead."
The council will look to agree its budget in February 2023 which will include a five-year Financial Plan, a three-year detailed revenue budget, agreement of council tax levels for the next five-years and a Corporate Plan. Special Policy Development and Scrutiny Panels will take place in January 2023 to allow all councillors to consider the responses of the consultation and provide them with the opportunity to consider the detail of the officer budget proposals in advance of the budget being agreed in February 2023.
Leader of West Lothian Council Lawrence Fitzpatrick assed; "I'd like to thank all those that have taken part to date. For people to take time out of their day to provide feedback is appreciated and it helps to inform the decision-making process. Hugely difficult decisions lie ahead and it's important that local people are given information and a chance to provide feedback."