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SLC Braced For Cuts
South Lanarkshire Council is bracing itself for over £80million worth of cuts over the next three years. A report to councillors on the executive committee has warned members the authority will probably have to slash £84.4m from the budget before 2019 just to balance the books. And council leader Eddie McAvoy warned residents to prepare themselves for damaging cuts to vital services.
Members of the executive committee are set to meet to discuss the council’s financial strategy. They will be told SLC is facing over £36m of cuts next year, of which nearly £8m is down to the removal of the national insurance rebate.
The figure will be £26.1m in 2017/18 and £22m in 2018/19. For 2015/16, the council was forced to cut £17m from its budget.
Officers have used a number of assumptions in calculating the figures, such as a continuation of the council-tax freeze and presumed cuts to the block grant received by the council, which makes up 84 per cent of council finding.
Councillors will be told that due to South Lanarkshire’s population growing at a slower rate than other authorities, its share of the grant will go down.
The UK Government is expected to make an announcement on grant funding next month but, if it is just for one year, the council will have to wait until December before finding out what their grant share will be.
Looking at the longer term, officers say a grant increase of 1.8 per cent would be required to avoid further savings beyond 2019.
Councillor McAvoy said: “It’s unbelievable, but we predicted this. We said to people that previous years were going to be difficult but for these years, if the Conservatives won the election, it would be a really bad spell and this is the end result.
“We have got to hope our Scottish MPs down in Westminster will take up the case for local government and hope the Scottish Parliament will stand up for local authorities and say they are not prepared to cut that much.
“The Scottish Government grant will be cut and they need to decide how they use that money. They want to protect the NHS and that means we will suffer further cuts.
“I know people do not like it, I know people don’t want to see a reduction in services, but what options do we have? The council tax has been frozen since 2007 and we are unable to increase our revenue.
“I have never seen anything like this before.”
Councillor McAvoy rubbished suggestions money for the Cathkin Relief Road could be diverted to fund things like school bus travel for secondary pupils. “I wish we could, but that money must be used for infrastructure,” he added. “I understand people protesting against the buses, but the alternative is cutting teachers or shutting schools.
“The MPs and MSPs who are writing letters to complain should go to John Swinney and call on him to make the legal limits one and two miles then we would get a grant to subsidise it.”