At a meeting of Council today (2 March), Councillors agreed by a majority to the Administration’s proposals for bridging a £17m funding gap as well as a package of investments that will empower communities, grow the local economy, support the transformation of service delivery and improve key infrastructure.
On top of the Council’s £260m spending to run key services like education, waste, roads and social care, additional funding for a wide range of projects will be delivered through the re-profiling of payments for PPI/PPP contracts. These include:
- £1.5m to accelerate the impact of economic development and to enhance the opportunities of the City Region Deal projects.
- £1.3m Community Empowerment and Capacity Fund to support local people and groups to maximise ambitions in their communities.
- £3m to help the Council to invest in the redesign of activities that will reduce running costs and support financial sustainability.
- 200k to top up the Scottish Welfare Fund that provides a safety net for people on low income.
The 2023-24 budget, which was set following community engagement with residents through the Budget Conversation, will also see £37m invested in the Council’s Capital Programme. This includes:
- £10.98m to enhance schools and other education settings
- £6.2m for road and infrastructure improvements
- £1.7m for I.T. and digital transformation
- £11.5m for City Region Deal projects.
Councillors also agreed to invest a further £1m through borrowing to improve the area’s roads and pavements.
A report by the Council’s Chief Finance Officer outlined why the Council is facing such a significant budget shortfall and the ongoing uncertainty over local government finance.
Councillors agreed to savings of almost £6.5m across all service areas to help plug the £17m gap. This includes the closure of several Council buildings and Springkerse Park and Ride as well as a reduction in grants to several external organisations.
The rest of the savings will be made up by a 7% Council Tax rise, the use of earmarked reserves (£5.35m) and re-profiling repayments for PPI/PPP contracts (£3.712m).
Among the savings rejected were the closure of the Household and Waste Recycling Centres at Callander and Balfron, an increase in the Garden Waste Permit, the closure of all public toilets and a reduction to the roads maintenance budget.
Stirling Council Leader, Cllr Chris Kane said: “This is the biggest financial challenge Stirling Council has ever faced so delivering a balanced budget has been an extremely challenging exercise for everyone involved.
“While there was robust debate at today’s Council meeting, all political groups acknowledged that tough decisions were unavoidable to plug the budget gap.
“I am pleased we have now agreed a budget, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Officers involved in the budget-setting process for their hard work in very difficult circumstances.
“Given the ongoing uncertainty of local government finance, it’s important we continue to take steps to secure the Council’s long-term sustainability so we can continue to deliver for the people of Stirling in the future.”