COUNCIL bosses have launched a consultation to ask the public how to slash £9million from their budget within months.

Ahead of making budget cuts, the survey asks residents about their priorities to help calculate spending for 2020-2021.

A final settlement from the Scottish Government isn’t likely until February, and a planned exit from the European Union on October 31 could drastically change spending figures.

A previous consultation in 2017 found the public largely in favour of proposed cuts to services.

But there were swift backlashes over reducing care of gardens and also persistent complaints about lack of grass-cutting in public spaces.

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The new survey asks residents to rank different services – such as schools, roads, libraries and sport and leisure – in order of importance. It also asks if the council should:

• review charges, such as introducing public parking charges or have more fixed penalty notices;

• reduce or stop things the council doesn’t have to do by law, such as free events or supporting community organisations;

• reduce or end funding to individuals, such as the £15 payment to over 65s at Christmas;

• change or cut opening hours for services and buildings;

• close some buildings and move services to shared locations.

The consultation runs until September 29 on the council’s website and in libraries. A report on the findings will be presented to councillors in November before the budget is set in February.

Councillor Ian Dickson, convener of corporate services, said: “I welcome the launch of this new budget consultation which will give our residents the opportunity to influence the decisions taken by councillors.

“The council’s budget has stayed largely the same for the past five years but during that period we’ve had to deal with a variety of pressures such as rising inflation, public sector wage increases, an ageing population with more demand for council services, and increasing costs.

“To balance the books the council has reduced management costs by £1.5m, increased efficiency and productivity, changed opening hours, and closed expensive old buildings.

“Looking to the future, it is inevitable that further difficult decisions will be required, with £9m of savings required by April 2020 alone.

“This consultation will guide us when we take those key decisions next year and I would encourage as many residents to take part as possible.”

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SNP politicians recently hit back at claims by Labour MSP Neil Bibby that funding had been reduced in real terms to West Dunbartonshire Council.

The West Scotland politician had cited figures from the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICE) showing WDC’s budget was cut by £117 per person in real terms between 2013-14 and 2018-19.

But Gil Paterson MSP said funding had increased from the Scottish Government this year.

He said: “Despite the fact the Scottish Parliament has had its budget slashed by the UK Tory government we have managed to maintain levels of expenditure by local government in Scotland in contrast to what is happening in England and Wales, which is run by Labour, where there have been huge reductions in service provision.

“Neil Bibby is well aware that the Scottish Government, in addition, has had to use large amounts of their budget to pay for vital services that have been axed by the Tories, as part of the Tory austerity agenda, particularly in relation to Universal Credit and the bedroom tax.

“His party, Labour, has supported the Tory austerity agenda so it is a real cheap political attack, from the side-lines, on Scotland’s progress to a better society by peddling false information.

“Checking the Scottish Government’s finance circulars, we find that the SG revenue funding package has, in fact, increased from £189m in 2018-19 to £193m in 2019-20.”