In his latest Post column, the leader of West Dunbartonshire Council Martin Rooney outlines cuts made at the recent budget meeting...

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I AM pleased to report that, in March this year, despite the massive funding gap left by the SNP, West Dunbartonshire Council managed to set a balanced budget.

Unfortunately, we had to use some reserves we created in December and we had to increase council tax, sales, fees and charges to achieve this.

We are not out of the woods yet and will have a significant funding gap for next year of over £11million, so things are still going to be really tough for the council, our staff and our communities for the foreseeable future.

We took a lot of really tough decisions in the budget but we mitigated the impact where we could.

We cut funding from our apprenticeship scheme but replaced it with £200,000 over four years from the Cost of Living Fund to fully mitigate the impact.

We are looking to increase apprenticeship rates to make work pay and to recognise there are apprentices who manage a household and have dependent children, so we need to do more to help them.

We also made cuts to Y-Sort-It but we continue to give them £117,000 from the council and a further £186,000 from the Health and Social Care Partnership.

In addition, we gave them £156,000 over four years from the Cost of Living Fund to fully mitigate the reduction.

Y-Sort-It had £982,619 in their reserves, some of which was earmarked for projects, and has a strong track record of securing external funding.

We also know that people are still struggling with the cost of living, so we extended the energy fund to cover next winter in order to provide support to eligible households.

In addition, we provided help for families by creating a four-year School Meal Cost Hardship Fund of £240,000.

We also allocated £360,000 to local foodbanks, as well as £400,000 over the next four years from the Cost of Living Fund to enhance the Schools Summer Programme.

Another £180,000 has been committed to the successful sport and leisure programme for children during holiday times over the next four years.

We also invested £67,000 by increasing the current Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) from £35 to £40 and introducing a Young Carers EMA supplement of £10 to support young people with caring responsibilities.

We can’t mitigate against all of the budget cuts but we have taken action where we can to support households affected by the cost of living.

According to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre, per capita funding for councils has fallen by 16 per cent since 2009.

It’s clear that we need a greater share of resources and I was delighted to learn that local trade unionists had organised a protest at the Scottish Parliament to call for fair funding for West Dunbartonshire that would help to protect local services.