29 September
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In brief

  • Insufficient levels of funding and increasing costs has meant that the council will have to deliver but savings of £26.9 million over the next three years to help contribute to the budget gap.  A large number of budget savings measures have been agreed to enable the council to balance its budget - something the council is legally required to do.
  • A report being presented to Council Executive next week has confirmed that the council has an overspend of nearly £3.5million for 2023/24.
  • The council receives 80% of its funding direct from the Scottish Government, with income through Council Tax making up less than 20% of the council's budget.
  • Urgent action has been agreed to manage the overspend including putting in place recruitment controls and stopping non-essential spending. Consideration will also be given to moving forward planned budget reduction measures and identifying new ways to reduce spending.

Leader of West Lothian Council Lawrence Fitzpatrick has said that unless more funding is given to local councils soon, the impact on local services will be disastrous.

He said: "I think it is very important to be clear and up-front in terms of the position we and other councils are in. The figures are set out in front of us and it is clear that we can no longer continue to deliver the services we currently deliver and remain solvent. The simple reality is that if we continue to deliver the existing level of services we deliver now, we will run out of money. If this were any other organisation, they would be facing insolvency and administration. In terms of what that means for council services - roads, schools, care homes, open spaces, care for looked after children - this would be disastrous.

"We have all seen what has happened with Birmingham City Council recently who have essentially gone bust and they will now be forced to close many facilities and stop all but essential services.

"I believe it's time to reflect on where we are going and what future we face unless a significant increase in funding is provided to councils."

He added: "We have done everything that is required of us in terms of agreeing a long-term budget strategy and having strict budget monitoring and controls in place. However, the reality is that we do not have enough funding to deliver the level of services we currently provide. It is not sustainable and this is an extremely worrying situation for local council services."

A review of the council's budget position is undertaken quarterly and the recent report will be presented to the Council Executive on Tuesday. This approach ensures that risks are identified at an early stage and allows areas to be identified for action.

The monitoring report highlights that the overspend mainly relates to increased costs to deal with homelessness (£2.54m) and residential school placement costs (£736,000). Transport costs for ASN and inflationary costs for catering and supplies for schools and care homes, and staff pressures in care homes also contribute significant amounts to the overspend. Uncertainty remains over pay increases for non-teaching staff. The council has budgeted for a 3% pay award but an increase beyond that  would create a further cost pressure to the council if not fully met by additional Scottish Government funding.