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Budget 2015-18

This article was first published on: 11 February 2015

Significant changes to the way services are delivered in order to meet a funding gap of around £22m are announced.

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East Renfrewshire Council will make significant changes to the way services are delivered in order to meet a funding gap of around £22m but local people are being reassured that many of the changes will be for the better.

This was the key message from Council Leader Jim Fletcher today, Thursday 12 February, as elected members approved a package of savings totalling £17.4million to be delivered over the next 3 years. £6.1million of the savings will be made next year (2015/16) with no requirement for compulsory redundancies. The council will also invest £80m in capital projects.

Councillor Fletcher said: "The 2015- 2018 budget is a budget for change. In order to meet the future demands on our services at a time of reduced funding, it is simply not possible to standstill or look at how things were done in the past. We are confident that we will end up in a place that is fair for all.  We have produced a 3-year budget so that local people and staff can see what lies ahead and we have plenty of time to plan and to introduce changes in a managed and sensitive way. We will use the forthcoming years to identify further savings as more information about our future funding emerges."

Following an extensive consultation with local people and staff, 2 proposals from the savings package have been removed. Barrhead Civic Amenity Site will not be closed and the council will retain campus cop provision at a reduced level, joint funded by Police Scotland. A final decision on the sale of Bonnyton House was delayed to allow a report from external auditors to be presented to the Integrated Health and Social Care Partnership. The report will examine whether alternative proposals put forward by staff and Friends of Bonnyton House are able to deliver the £600k savings required.

Substantial investment plans were also announced for early years, education, health and social care and local communities, with £80 million of capital projects planned over the next three years. The planned investment will considerably boost the local economy, support the delivery of new schools and increase opportunities for more young and vulnerable children to access learning through nursery education and childcare places.

£10.3million of the savings required over the next 3 years will be achieved by making changes internally within the Council and without reducing frontline services. This will include; increasing the number of staff who are involved in agile working; reducing staff numbers by 5%; removing layers of management; and eliminating out of date processes and systems. A new change programme is being introduced to drive down council costs and fast-track the development  of digital services.

Councillor Fletcher added: "Every change we make will be made with the aim of directing all available resource to frontline services. In doing so we accept that it may be better for some local services to be provided by someone other than the council. Where that is the case and we can safeguard a service and protect staff jobs for longer, then we will select another provider."

The budget proposals will freeze council tax levels for local people (£1,126 band D), and will maintain pupil/teacher numbers next year. This is the eighth year of the council tax freeze making East Ren levels lower than the Scottish average (£1,149 band D).

Councillor Fletcher said: "This has been a difficult budget process but it has not defeated us. We have stood firm on our commitment to those who need our help. We are investing an extra £2million in services that will support Early Years and vulnerable adults, and we will spend £25.6m - an increase of £1.8m, to deliver services to elderly residents to enable them to live full, safe and independent lives at home."

He also added: "The changes we are making will support all of our clients to take greater control of how they receive care and will support each individual to decide what sort of future they want for themselves. By offering personalised care packages people can choose how they want to be supported."

There was good news for lowest paid staff, with an increase in the living wage to £7.85 per hour from April.

The council also agreed to a rent increase of 4.9% from April 2015, and a 4.9% increase in each of the following 2 years. The rise is required to fund ongoing improvements to the council's 3,000 homes, purchase new homes to boost council stock and to guarantee that the Scottish Housing Quality Standard is met and maintained. This will place the average weekly rent for 2015/16 (48 week) at £71.91, remaining lower than local housing associations and neighbouring local authorities.

The budget savings proposals and consultation feedback are available to view in the 'related documents' section.

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