Councillors have agreed the latest budget for East Dunbartonshire, with key pledges on libraries and education offsetting more than £1 million in cuts.
Threatened library closures in Westerton, Milton of Campsie and Lenzie are almost certain to be prevented as the council has agreed to provide an extra £200,000 for the trust which operates the service.
Among the major capital projects covered in the budget are a new £33m Allander Leisure Centre and a £30m replacement for Boclair Academy.
Joint leader Andrew Polson (Conservative, Bearsden South) moved the budget proposals, seconded by his Liberal Democrat co-leader Vaughan Moody, who also shares his ward.
Councillor Polson said: “The Scottish Government revenue budget has fallen by just under one per cent in the years between 2013/14 and 2018/19. But the local government revenue budget has fallen at a significantly steeper rate of over seven per cent in the same time period. Local government funding has fallen by over seven times that of Scottish Government revenue funding, directly hitting our vital local services.”
He went on to talk about the actions taken regarding the council’s funding gap of more than £15m: ” We agreed a Council Tax rise of 3.95 per cent last month and that will deliver an estimated Council Tax income of just over £63.1m. Further adjustments bring our current funding gap to almost £6.3m.”
East Dunbartonshire’s funding has been reduced by a total of £87m since 2008 and projections up to 2024 say further decline is coming.
The new Early Years Admission Policy will see all children become eligible to enter nursery on their third birthday, to remove an anomaly which required some children to wait until after the Easter break. This will cost £60,000.
School music tuition in East Dunbartonshire will become 30 per cent more expensive, increasing from £177 per year to £230.
Parking charges will be introduced for Kirk Road, New Kirk Road, Douglas Place, Bearsden and Union Street, Townhead and Oxford Street, Kirkintilloch.
To save £20,000 in annual maintenance costs, all schools will have their water storage tanks removed and convert to mains fed supplies.
Adult daycare costs will increase significantly. Rather than the current weekly charge of £10 and £4 for transport, this will become a daily rate of £10 and £4, increasing further over the next three years to £30/day and £6 for transport.
Community alarms will also become ten per cent more expensive each year for three years.
Councillor Moody said: “Our Transformation Programme and demand management actions deliver savings of over £4.8m – a substantial element of our budget gap and testament to the significant work carried out by our senior officers to ensure every efficiency is captured. And this
approach has no proposed service reduction or enforced job losses.”
The SNP group’s budget proposals were largely in line with the administration, though their amendments called for investigation into additional reform to library services to create community hubs including various services. The SNP also called for recommendations to be drawn up regarding replacing Lenzie Academy.
Other important features of the budget include the previously agreed £23m additional support needs school in Kirkintilloch.
New early years facilities will be created at the former St Joseph’s Primary School in Milngavie, Brookwood Library and Villa in Bearsden and Southbank Road in Kirkintilloch.
A total of £2m will be invested in Bishopbriggs Town Centre, and £335,000 will fund further works in Kirkintilloch Town Centre.
The council will also spend £2.4m bringing a new 3G pitch and extended pavilion to High Park in Lennoxtown.
Southbank House will be redeveloped in a £3.5m project.
From 2020 the Milngavie Hub will receive funding in excess of £3m.
An additional £1.75m will be invested in roads.