Angus council going to be smaller and council tax could go up

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Angus Council says its vision is that it will be a “better, stronger, more sustainable but smaller organisation by 2020”.

The local authority expects to have just 75 percent of its current budget by 2020 and is preparing for that now, changing how it works and what it does.

It is preparing for a £15 million shortfall in 2017/18 and projecting a £41 to £51 million budget reduction over the next four years.

One proposal to bridge the funding gap is to increase council tax for every home in Angus.

Council tax bills have been frozen in Scotland since 2007 but from April 2017 the freeze will be replaced with discretion for local authorities to increase council tax by a maximum of three per cent per year.

Angus Council is proposing it put the tax up by the maximum of three per cent, which it says will generate £1.3 million, equivalent to 10 per cent of the funding shortfall.

Speaking at a budget briefing today (Friday) at the Town and County Hall in Forfar, Councillor Bill Duff, finance spokesman, said: “We know in this year to come it’s about £15m is the gap we’ve got.

“So it’s tough and it’s going to get tougher.

“For a while the council was what we call salami slicing, so it was two percent off everything, three percent, four percent.

“We now realise we can’t make the sort of savings by salami slicing, so it’ll have to be a more strategic approach.

“It’s about how the council is going to work in the next five or six years or so and where we’re going to be in 2020.”

The council said its mid-term financial projection of the shortfall was around the £15 million mark.

Cllr Duff added: “We’ve been talking about that gap for certainly six months. It’s no surprise.”

Audit Scotland’s Best Value audit report detailed that Angus Council is on track to make changes but wants to see the authority pick up the pace.

The council said it has always had a record of pretty good sound financial management, so the changes other councils had to make a few years ago, it is having to implement now, meaning the change is “faster and probably going to run deeper”.

Cllr Duff added: “The gap of £15 million isn’t all being achieved by savings because for the first time we are going to increase the council tax, not that that is any massive secret.

“Some of that gap will be plugged by extra tax income.

“£15 million sounds like a very scary number. That is the gap, that’s not the cuts.

“I think the cuts figure is a fraction of that figure.

“It’s not £15m worth of cuts tomorrow. That would be pretty serious.

“There are three elements, there are some cuts, yes, the council tax rise proposed and there are some one off measures, which hopefully we will use to bridge the gap.”

Cllr Duff and depute leader of the council Paul Valentine said there could be job losses.

Cllr Valentine said the authority wasn’t “hiding that”.

He said: “There have been discussions with staff and trade unions, so everybody knows there is the potential for job cuts.

“We’re not quite sure of the numbers yet but we know we’re going to be a smaller organisation.”

Cllr Duff added: “We’re not talking massive numbers in the next year. That £15 million isn’t all cuts. If it was then you would be looking at bigger numbers.”

Cllr Valentine said: “Our vision will be a better, stronger, more sustainable but smaller organisation by 2020.”

Cllr Duff added the council will “probably still be the biggest employer in Angus”.

He concluded: “We’re going to be smaller but we’re still in relation to other organisations and businesses in Angus going to be a huge part of people’s lives.

“We’re still going to be providing education, roads, waste, all the cultural and leisure stuff.

“We’ll still be a big part of people’s lives, we’ll just be doing things hopefully a little bit smarter, a little bit better with probably a few less people.”

For full coverage see next week’s paper.