With more multi-million pound savings to make again this year, Argyll and Bute Council is inviting communities to get involved earlier than usual in the budget-setting process by using a budget simulator to set high level priorities.
The council’s funding gap next year is estimated to be more than £10 million. Savings can only come from controllable parts of the council’s budget. Some areas of spend are protected by national priorities, such as teacher numbers, or are outwith the council’s control, for example inflationary costs.
The simulator will list services where savings can come from, and give options to reduce or increase spend by different amounts until the target of £10 million is reached. There will also be options to increase income to fund services, including through council tax or fees, and information explaining the impact on services of the choices respondents are making.
Councillor Gary Mulvaney, Policy Lead for Finance Services said:
“If we increase or even maintain spend on one service, we have to reduce spend on another. It’s as simple, and as difficult, as that. All our services matter. There are no easy choices. Cuts to council budgets mean cuts to council services unfortunately.”
A report to today’s Policy and Resources Committee outlines that Argyll and Bute is facing an estimated gap in funding for its council services of more than £40 million over the next five years, with a gap of over £10 million in 2024-25 alone.
As well as running the simulator, the council will also set up a cross party Budget Working Group bringing together administration and opposition councillors, and trade union representatives to support the budget setting process.
Council Leader, Councillor Robin Currie, said:
“We will continue to campaign with national partners through CoSLA for more funding for vital council services, but have to start now preparing to meet, again, the challenge of delivering multi million pound savings. It’s important that we all work together to achieve the best outcomes for Argyll and Bute. The Budget Working Group brings councillors together and the simulator will bring communities’ views into the budget setting process earlier than usual. I would encourage as many people as possible to get involved.”
The simulator will be available from 19 June on the council’s website – www.argyll-bute.gov.uk.