Council set their budget as £62.4m savings are approved
Written by Scott Campbell.
 
 
Published at 16:59 GMT on Tuesday 19th February, 2013.
 
SAVINGS of £62.4m have been determined by North Lanarkshire Council following a meeting of the full council, in Motherwell, on Thursday 14th, February.
 
The meeting now means that the local authority’s budget for 2013/14 has been set, in addition to a savings totalling £62.4million for the next three years.
 
Locally, Abronhill High School is due to close next year as part of the council’s savings package – earning the authority close to £1.8m over the next three years. However, the council agreed to spend £100million on building new schools, taking the amount spent in this area to half a billion pounds over a 10-year period from 2006.
 
Also announced was a further investment of £3.4million in the council's flagship Youth Investment Programme which aims to support 5,000 people into work.
 
The council also agreed to invest a further £3million into dealing with the effects of the UK Government's welfare reform programme.
 
Following a consultation across North Lanarkshire in 2012 on £104.75million of options for savings, the council agreed to a three-year savings package of £61.395million, taking 58% of the options, and a further £1m saving in the administration of the capital programme.
 
Amongst what was announced, the council rejected proposals including the closure of two residential care homes; a review of classroom and ASN assistants; the cessation of nurture classes; closing breakfast clubs in schools; a change in the school transport mileage limits; stopping lunchtime school crossing patrols; a reduction in funding to Citizens' Advice Bureaux; major reductions to budgets for home support; the closure of some First Stop Shops;  charges for community alarms.
 
The council also set its rent levels for 2013 with a below-inflation 1.5% increase, meaning North Lanarkshire still has among the lowest rents in Scotland. And more than £37m was allocated to improve current housing stock including £16.5m to continue kitchen and bathroom replacements, £4.5m to continue boiler replacements and £7.1m to continue roofing and rendering replacements.
 
The council agreed to freeze council tax and maintain teacher numbers for a further two years.
 
Council leader Jim McCabe said: "This is a responsible budget which meets the needs of the people of North Lanarkshire.
 
"We have been able to protect frontline services and, even in the face of the biggest storm facing the public finances in history, we have been able to invest where money is needed most.
 
"The cuts passed on to us by the Scottish Government are horrendous and the UK Government's welfare reforms have a significant impact. But in deciding on which options to take we have been able to avoid substantial cuts to frontline services which affect the most vulnerable people in our communities.
 
"And we have listened to the people of North Lanarkshire throughout this process. They told us that they did not want to see cuts which had an impact on vulnerable people. We have listened to that message."
 
Councillor Bob Burrows, the convener of finance and customer services for the council, added: "We have scrutinised every single option for savings and challenged every assumption made over more than a hundred hours of meetings.
 
"The result of that scrutiny is that we have been able to come to a responsible budget which balances our residents' need for vital services with a focus on investment where we can.
 
"Yes, this budget delivers cuts and these cuts are painful. But we have taken responsibility and delivered a prudent budget which ensures we are able to continue to deliver excellent services.
 
"While we cannot guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies as a result of our decisions, we believe that the vast majority of staffing reductions will be achieved through the deletion of vacant posts, voluntary redundancy, early retirement and redeployment.
 
"In reducing the establishment by 750 full-time equivalent posts over the last two years, only three were compulsory. For those three, the people involved were offered alternative employment but declined that offer. So we have made it clear that compulsory redundancy is an absolute last resort.
"I would also like to place on record our thanks to our hardworking staff who have been patient in waiting for the outcome of our decision-making and who have worked tremendously to deliver services in difficult circumstances."
 
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