Tayside and Central Scotland

Falkirk Council facing £40m budget gap over three years

Falkirk Council is facing "extremely challenging" funding gaps totalling more than £40m in its revenue budgets.

The authority has a projected gap of £7.8m next year, £17m for the 2016/17 financial year, and a further £15m in 2017/18.

A special meeting of the council has been called to discuss the issue.

Falkirk Council has had to identify savings of more than £70m over the last eight years, and has been drawing heavily on its reserves.

However, it can no longer afford to do so and has "less scope for manoeuvre" than in previous years.

A report from chief finance officer Bryan Smail and chief executive Mary Pitcaithly recommends that the council starts progressing equality and poverty impact assessments ahead of next year's budget setting meetings.

Tax freeze

The report warns that "to achieve aggregate savings of circa £40m over the three years will require significant contraction in service delivery and reduction in staffing".

It also notes that the recent European Court judgement on holiday pay will cost the authority an estimated £500,000 per year, "with a potentially very significant backpay liability" which is not budgeted for.

Maintaining the council tax freeze will cost the local government £17m, while Scottish government policy also means the authority also has to maintain teacher numbers.

The report recommends making a head start on the savings for 2016/17 and 2017/18, as "it is difficult to imagine how budget gaps of this magnitude can be managed effectively, if tackling them is only started in the year in question."

Councillors will be asked at a forthcoming special meeting of the authority to sanction equality and poverty impact assessments to inform the budget decisions to be taken next February.

A public consultation is also to be carried out through the authority's website to gather opinions on where savings should be made.

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