On Wednesday, 1st of March at 10:30am Perth and Kinross Council will meet to consider proposals put forward by senior council staff for how to achieve a balanced budget for the next financial year.
A cost of living crisis, climate and biodiversity crises, a growing inequalities gap and demographic change mean officers have had to present Councillors with hard choices for them to consider when they meet to agree the Capital and Revue Budgets for 2023/24 and indicative budgets for the following two years.
Thomas Glen, Chief Executive of Perth & Kinross Council said: “As public servants, none of us want to be in this position where we are putting forward budget proposals which include any workforce reductions or cuts to services that we know local residents appreciate. But, the scale of the financial challenge we face means that difficult choices have to be put forward for consideration by Councillors. At the same time we have done everything we can to protect jobs for the staff who work in and serve our communities and to prioritise services which help the most vulnerable in our communities.
“Ultimately it will be for Councillors, having had access to all the facts and the full report into the feedback received from communities, to focus on the priorities they have already set in the Corporate Plan. They will decide whether the proposals from officers should go ahead or how else the budget should be balanced.”
The proposals put forward for consideration as part of the budget, following on from the Medium Term Financial Plan, which was agreed by the Council in September, include a potential Council Tax increase of 3%, equivalent to a 78p a week rise for a Band D property, with other proposals including a reduction in a range of services and a limited number of reductions in posts within the Council workforce.
The Council’s Capital Budget, represents the investment the Council makes the roads, buildings, other assets and infrastructure projects under its control, also requires decisions to be taken on which of these should be paused or prioritised for the overall Capital Budget to remain affordable.
The Council has a projected shortfall of £31 million, which it will need to overcome to set a balanced Revenue Budget for 2023/24. As staffing costs are a significant part of the Council’s spend, the budget proposals which have been put forward include some which will impact staffing numbers.
In the press release relating to the challenges the budget faces it says this about a reduction in staff numbers: “officers have been at pains to minimise this as far as possible, with fewer than 45 full time equivalent jobs at risk in the next financial year and between 70 and 80 in each of the subsequent years, protecting around 97% of the existing workforce.”
Last year the Council collected feedback from the communities of Perth and Kinross through an online survey and a number of in-person events which ran from October 2022 to January this year. Over 1,000 people responded to share their views on the Council’s new corporate priorities and where spending should be focused, with the cost of living crisis, educational previsions, climate change and social care coming out as the top four priorities from those who responded.
Mr Glen added: “To help decide what proposals to put forward we returned time and again to the priorities in our Corporate Plan. These are the things the Council has promised the people of Perth and Kinross that it will focus on, so the most important consideration in making savings proposals has been how they will impact on our ability to deliver on that promise. Officers will continue to focus available resources on the council’s priorities and supporting those in greatest need.
“Whatever the outcome of next week’s budget this is a time of transformation and change for our people, our organisation and the communities we serve. Over the past few years in particular our staff and residents have proved time and again their commitment to helping make change happen to benefit the most vulnerable people in our area. I am confident that together we will work through these challenges and continue to protect priority services and jobs whilst, delivering on our vision for Perth and Kinross as a place where people can live life well, free from poverty and inequality.”
The information on the meeting, and what will be discussed along with the link to watch the live broadcast can be found at https://perth-and-kinross.cmis.uk.com/perth-and-kinross/Meetings/tabid/70/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/397/Meeting/3460/Committee/7/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx