Job fears as Council faces £18m funding gap

East Dunbartonshire Council HQ
East Dunbartonshire Council HQ

There are fears for job losses as crisis-hit East Dunbartonshire Council faces finding savings of almost £18 million this year to balance the books.

This is the largest funding gap the council has faced in recent times, according to Depute Chief Executive Ann Davie.

Last week, the special All Party Budget Working Group, made up of councillors from each political persuasion, unanimously agreed to raise council tax bills by three per cent.

This trimmed £1.8 million off the original £19.7 million funding gap for 2018/19.

Councillors are now to meet again on Tuesday, March 20 to finalise the budget and identify how the remaining £17.8 million in savings will be achieved.

The All Party Working Group was set up after the SNP minority administration quit in December in a row over cuts to voluntary redundancy terms for council staff.

This was pushed through by the Lib Dem group, supported by the Tories, without consultation with unions.

Craig Bell, chair of East Dunbartonshire Unison branch, said this measure now posed “a real threat of compulsory redundancies”.

In a letter to members at the time, Unison convener Tommy Robertson said: “The reality of this means employees will not consider derisory voluntary exit packages.

“With the threat of services being reduced or even stopped altogether, further savings will only be achieved through job cuts. If no one volunteers then there is only one alternative, compulsory redundancies,” he added.

He added that the union was being given “no opportunity” to negotiate the change.

Mrs Davie said: “Balancing the council’s budget has become increasingly challenging in recent years, with this year’s funding gap the largest we have yet faced.

“Significant work is ongoing to identify proposals that will achieve the further savings of almost £18 million which still need to be found”.

At a special meeting in council HQ in January, neither the Lib Dem group nor the Conservative group came forward to form to take control of the council.

It remains to be seen whether a new administration will be in place before next month’s budget meeting.”