OVER £2 million in savings have been agreed as part of early work to close the council’s £17 million budget gap.

West Dunbartonshire Council’s (WDC) budget process is being undertaken in two phases with phase one currently underway.

At a meeting held on December 20, councillors discussed the finance update report which included the first range of options developed by officers in order to close the local authority’s anticipated budget gap (£17m).

Following discussion, options which are expected to generate £1.356m were given the green light. This was in addition to management adjustments totalling £973,000.

Councillor Martin Rooney, council leader, described decisions made at the meeting as “extremely challenging”.

Cllr Rooney said: “The decisions taken at this meeting were extremely challenging for everyone involved.

“Nobody wants to make cuts but it is our responsibility to help steer the council through what is one of the most significant financial challenges known to local government and without additional funding, we have been left with no choice.

“Sadly, early indications from COSLA are that the funding we will receive is a likely to represent a cut to our core revenue funding.

“This is much worse than even I had expected as there is no inflationary uplift to support pay and other cost pressures. 

“I continue to urge the Scottish Government to revisit their funding to our council and for the people of West Dunbartonshire.

“Without government support we will not be abler to maintain the current level of services that local people have come to rely on.

“The savings agreed today have reduced our budget gap to approximately £9.3million but we still have a lot of work to do over the coming weeks to ensure that we deliver a balanced budget in March, as per our statutory requirement.”

The budget gap represents the difference between the council’s income, including Scottish Government funding, and the cost of delivering services to communities.

The figure is compounded by a variety of external factors including increased inflation, the cost of utilities, fuel, and materials.

What changes were agreed at the meeting?

A 20 percent reduction to the management fee paid to West Dunbartonshire Leisure Trust.

An adjustment to the general school budget within education, which pays for learning and teaching resources.

A total of £720,000 will continue to be available and distributed across the area’s schools for these  items and work will continue with head teachers to ensure their priorities are met.

A proposal to reduce management time allocated to senior teachers to undertake non-teaching work such as planning in primary schools.

Core teaching staff required to deliver the curriculum will continue to be maintained.

A two-week period of closure over Christmas and New Year for non-essential council services will be progressed for 2024/25.

The savings generated by accepting the options/adjustments, combined with the reduction to the council’s employer pensioner contribution rate – is estimated to provide a benefit of around £5.332 million over the next four years.

This means that a further £9.313 million will be needed for WDC to deliver a balanced budget.

A second range of savings options is currently being developed to be presented to councillors for consideration on March 6.

Depute Council Leader, Councillor Michelle McGinty, said: “We know the people of West Dunbartonshire are still struggling and that is why we place so much emphasis on our cost of living supports.

“Unfortunately we continue to see huge rises in the costs we face, and with no increase in funding to offset this, we are forced to accept changes to the way services are delivered in order to reduce our costs.

“The financial situation is dire but we are doing all we can to help and support residents by sharing the costs across all council services to avoid disproportionate cuts.”