Council predicts £3.7M budget gap

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Argyll and Bute Council is facing a predicted budget gap of £3.7million in the 2022/23 financial year, a report has revealed.

One of the authority’s executive directors has identified that figure as a mid-range scenario. The best-case scenario is reckoned to be a £2.5m gap, with the worst-case scenario being a £5.9m gap.

A three per cent rise in council tax has already been proposed to balance the budget, while a raft of potential savings options have also been published.

Two posts are on the line among those options, one of which is a part-time customer service centre (CSC) role at Helensburgh and Lomond Civic Centre.

The other, as manager of community learning and development (CLD), has been vacant since July. If all the published options are taken, it will save the council £2.5m.

The budget outlook and savings options are on the agenda for the council’s policy and resources committee at its virtual meeting on Thursday December 9.

The Scottish Government is also due to announce its budget the same day, with council settlements being finalised on Monday December 20. The council’s budget for 2022/23 is due to be agreed on Thursday February 24.

Executive director Kirsty Flanagan said: ‘For all options it cannot be assumed that they will not have an impact on service delivery; however, the council has a duty to balance its budget.

‘The savings options identified to date propose a potential reduction to the council’s staffing [by] 1.9 FTE (full-time equivalent) within 2022/23 should they all be accepted by members.

‘The head of customer support services will take forward a statutory consultation process with the trade unions for those savings options that could have an impact on jobs.

‘In addition to the saving options set out, officers are progressing a business process review of the revenues and benefits service to review current processes and identify efficiencies for the council whilst minimising any negative impact on customers by putting their needs front and centre.

‘It is anticipated this will generate savings; however, it is most likely these will be in 2023/24 rather than 2022/23.

‘The mid-range budget gap is based on a one per cent reduction in Scottish Government funding. However, the council will not be certain of its funding for 2022/23 until the Scottish Government budget is announced on December 9 and we have been notified of the individual council settlements on December 20.’