Budget planning on council’s agenda

Councillor Gary Mulvaney

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School and public transport is in the spotlight, along with leisure services, as Argyll and Bute Council considers its savings options for next year, a report has revealed.

The authority is also investigating the possibility of making savings on its travel and office costs as well as introducing more digital working.

It is also estimated that after implementation of previously-agreed savings, the council will have a budget gap of more than £4.5 million for the 2021/22 financial year.

The report was set to be considered by the council’s policy and resources committee yesterday (Thursday, October 15), its first meeting since February.

A table in the report states that a service redesign on school and public transport, which includes shared transport, is anticipated to deliver between £415,000 and £830,000 worth of savings.

There is no further detail in the report on what that service redesign might involve.

More digital working, asset regionalisation and reduced travel and office costs has a target range of £350,000 to £700,000 of savings.

And changes to Live Argyll, the arm’s-length charitable trust that runs the area’s leisure and library facilities, and to the council’s community learning service could deliver savings between £260,000 and £520,000.

The council’s vehicle fleet, and other amenity services, are also the subject of proposed changes.

The report, by executive director Kirsty Flanagan, said: ‘A cross-party budget working group (BWG) has been established to engage with theme leads and provide a sounding board to assist in the development and identification of savings options.

‘The BWG consists of six members from the administration, three members from the opposition and two trade union representatives.

‘The BWG does not have any decision-making authority but can report to, and make recommendations, to either the council or the policy and resources committee.

‘Its primary purpose is to assist process which will identify savings options to be considered as part of the 2021/22 budget process and provide a degree of scrutiny over options as they are being developed.

‘The BWG met for the first time on September 30 and further meetings are scheduled on October 29 and November 24. Theme leads attend the meetings to provide updates on progress and consult on emerging saving options.

‘At the meeting on September 30, officers presented preliminary ideas on options developed to date and on the direction of travel that the themes are taking. The BWG agreed that all the themes should be pursued further.’

Another table also said that the council had an original estimated budget gap for 2021/22 of £6.529 million. After implementation of previously-agreed savings and increased council tax, this figure has now decreased to £4.557 million.

Estimates for the next five years suggest that by 2025/26 that figure could reach as high as £6.814 million, although the anticipated figure for 2023/24 is £6.912 million.

The specific budget options for 2021/22 are expected to be put to the policy and resources committee at its next meeting on Thursday, December 10.