Stirling Council 2024 Budget - Now Finalised

Stirling Council has approved its budget for 2024-25 which addresses a shortfall of over £16m and delivers a package of investments that prioritises key frontline services. 

At a meeting of Council today (29 Feb), councillors agreed by a majority to the administration’s proposals amid an incredibly challenging financial landscape for local government, with external funding pressures, rising costs and inflation, and increasing demand for services all contributing factors.

A total revenue budget of almost £287m will fund core services for communities. This includes over £146m being spent on schools and nurseries, while more than £22m will deliver the likes of waste and recycling, roads maintenance and improvements and land services.

Other key announcements include:

  • Council Tax will be frozen at last year’s levels, through a grant of £2.923m from the Scottish Government (equating to a 4.9% increase in Council Tax).
  • A library modernisation fund of £100k will also be created from service concession monies to explore options for future sustainability of the service.
  • The real living wage of £12 per hour will be applied from 1 April 2023 and be extended to the council’s apprentice cohort from 1 April 2024.

The budget, which was set following engagement with residents through the Big Conversation, will also see £44.294m invested in the Council’s capital programme.

This includes:

  • £14.901m for schools and other education settings, including the new Callander Primary School and the new ASN provisions at Bannockburn and McLaren High Schools.
  • £6.579m to maintain and improve roads and bridges.
  • £1.040m in technology improvements across council services.
  • £3.561m for City Region Deal projects.

The report on the council’s budget stated the council’s core grant allocation from the Scottish Government for 2024-25 decreased (once ring-fenced grants and new funding which comes with spending commitments were removed) by £1.295m from last year. It also forecast an estimated funding gap of over £9m in 2025-26 and more than £7.8m in 2026-27.

The £16.3m shortfall in the year’s budget was bridged by savings (£8.257m), the use of one-off reserves (£4.993m) an increase of fees and charges (£155k) and the grant to freeze council tax (£2.923m).

The savings proposals to plug the gap were informed by feedback from residents who took part in the council’s ‘Big Conversation’, which featured an online survey that 3,400 people took part in and 24 drop-in events across the council area attended by almost 700 people.

A total of 98 savings proposals were accepted. These included: increases to the garden waste charge and parking charges; the removal of funding for events like Open Streets and Stirling’s Hogmanay; a reduction in grant funding to groups such as Citizen’s Advice, Stirling Community Enterprise, Stirling Voluntary Enterprise and Sistema; a reduction in the libraries budget (but no closures), the redesign and restructure of a number of services; and the removal of the P5 primary school swimming programme.

Among the 41 savings rejected were the removal of the garden waste charge concession, a review of commercial waste collection, a reduction of supported bus services, the removal of the events budget for Bloody Scotland, the Stirling Science Festival, the Christmas Lights switch on and Stirling’s 900th anniversary; a reduction of funding for the Smith Museum; stopping the CCTV service; a reduction in community centres; the removal of the music tuition service; and a reduction in the education psychology service.

The full list of savings, as well as the political motions, can be downloaded here.

 

Dunblane Community Council has written to Stirling Council in advance of the budget debate on the 29th Feb.  The key points are :

Cuts to vital services - this is a false economuy due to long term social impacts

Operational efficiency and waste - Can Stirling Council assure us that this will be reduced?

Revenue raising - let's hear more about the options

Public consultation - We need wider sharing of an easy to digest version of the response.  Full text of the letter is below :

Stirling Council’s – Revenue and Capital Budget meeting on 29 February 2024
On 8 February, Dunblane Community Council held a meeting in the Victoria Halls, Dunblane which
was attended by over 170 people and all four of Dunblane’s councillors. The meeting was arranged
following Stirling Council’s announcement of a budget deficit and the proposed cuts to vital services
set out in Stirling Council’s Big Conversation Survey (the “survey”).


Whilst it was recognised that change is necessary given that central government funding is
insufficient to cover inflationary rises, there was a consensus that more could be done by Stirling
Council before cuts were made to vital services. There follows a summary of the key points raised
and questions asked at the meeting.


Cuts to vital services. Most of Stirling Council’s proposals relate to cuts to vital services that impact
Stirlingshire’s children, the elderly, the disabled and the most vulnerable in our society. The social
and economic impact of such cuts would likely render them a false economy in the longer term.
So that we can understand the evidence supporting each proposal, please send the impact
assessment and analysis for each proposal being put before the Revenue and Capital Budget
meeting, including the longer-term socio-economic cost and the impact on equalities, community
cohesion and inward investment.


Operational efficiencies within Stirling Council. The survey set out some operational efficiencies
that could be made by Stirling Council, such as using council flats to house the temporary homeless
at a saving of £500,000. We are keen to understand what other operational efficiencies can Stirling
Council make, and will these be included in the budget proposal?
Reducing waste and inefficiency within Stirling Council. The media reports that Stirling Council’s
deficit is around 25% greater than other local authorities. There have been recent examples of waste
and inefficiency within the council including the part-demolition of the Christie Clock and inadequate
repairs resulting in the same roads being dug up multiple times. On this basis,
• What steps has Stirling Council taken to ensure that its services are being run efficiently and
that they provide best value for money?
• What internal and external audit procedures (e.g., Audit Scotland) have taken place to address
waste and inefficiency and what was the outcome of these?

• What is the justification for the rebuilding of the Christie Clock (at an estimated of cost
£500,000) given the impending cuts to vital services?
Revenue raising initiatives. The survey included revenue raising suggestions, for example raising
parking fees and charging for empty and second homes. The view is that more could be done in this
area. The recently published Ernst & Young social-economic report on the UCI Cycling World
Championships (Feb 2024) identified that this event delivered a £205 million Gross Value-added
benefit to Scotland, a proportion of which would have accrued to Stirling. Despite the clear financial
benefits from such events, the budget for Stirling’s 900-year celebrations appeared as a budget cut,
therefore:
• What other revenue raising events is Stirling Council looking at (e.g., 900-year celebrations,
annual clan convention, sports events, conferences) and will these be included in the budget
proposal?
• Is Stirling Council structured to benefit from revenue raising opportunities and/or should Stirling
Council consider creating arm’s length organisations (e.g., City Building in Glasgow)?
Public consultation responses. There is concern that the views and ideas of the public following the
public consultation do not inform the proposals being put before Stirling Council, therefore,
• What efficiency improvement, waste reduction and revenue raising initiatives put forward by
the community have been incorporated into the budget proposal?
Given that most of the attendees at our meeting are extremely concerned about the closing of the
library - an institution that is used by many diverse groups and which serves as a lifeline to many
within our community - we ask that you withdraw this proposal from the budget agenda.
Conclusion
At the meeting the consensus is that Stirling Council should have demonstrated what it is doing to
operate more efficiently and reduce waste within the council before making cuts to vital
services. There is also a belief that there are many more revenue-raising opportunities than those
being put forward by Stirling Council.
The Big Conversation Survey is not considered a conversation, but rather an opportunity for Stirling
Council to deliver a fait accompli of unpalatable cuts to vital services. To date there is no indication
that the ideas generated by the community have been considered or will form part of the proposals
being put before councillors.
Taking this into consideration, will Stirling councillors have sufficient information to make informed
decisions on 29th February? What more can be done to ensure that this process is improved?
Yours sincerely

Ailsa Gray
Chair, Dunblane Community Council
Cc Council Leader, Chris Kane, Councillor Alasdair Tollemache, Councillor Robin Kleinman, Councillor
Ewan Dillon, Councillor Thomas Heald, Keith Brown, MSP, Stephen Bly, Community Council Chairs of

Stirling Council's media release is below

 

Stirling Council Media Release

Council publishes 2024-25 draft budget with proposals to bridge £16m shortfall

For Immediate Release – 23.02.24


Stirling Council has published its draft budget for 2024-25 which includes a number of savings proposals to address a shortfall of over £16m.

Councillors will consider and make the decisions on the budget at a special meeting of council next Thursday (29 Feb).

Stirling Council, like all other local authorities in Scotland, is facing an unprecedented financial challenge for a number of reasons including funding pressures, rising costs and inflation and increasing demand for services.

The savings proposals to plug the gap have been informed by feedback from residents who took part in the council’s ‘Big Conversation’, an important exercise featuring an online survey and a series of drop-in events across the council area.

More than 3,400 people participated in the online survey on nearly 50 savings proposals. The results are now available to view on our Engage Stirling site, as well as the Big Conversation webpage

Almost 700 people attended 24 events across the council area between August and December last year, which included eight larger events where members of the public could talk directly to services.

The budget reports, including the revenue budget and proposed capital programme, as well as the administration motions, can be downloaded here.

Stirling Council Leader Cllr Chris Kane said: “The budget-setting process has been hugely challenging for everyone involved, with mounting financial pressures forcing every council service to propose savings proposals to help achieve a balanced budget.

“No one wants to be in a position to be proposing cuts like these; but this is our financial reality, with rising costs and demand for delivering services. While it doesn’t make it any less painful, we are certainly not alone with councils across Scotland having to make very difficult choices.

“I would like to thank everyone who took part in our ‘Big Conversation’ on the budget that started back in August 2023, whether that was taking part in the online survey, coming along to the drop-in events or writing to us on a number of issues. Your feedback, ideas and suggestions have been invaluable and have helped inform the proposals put forward. 

“There will be no easy choices at next week’s budget meeting of all councillors, but it’s critical we keep Stirling Council on a firm financial footing to continue delivering the local services we all rely on.”

You can watch the budget-setting meeting and to find links to the agenda papers on the council’s online broadcasting platform.

For more information, including the equality and socio-economic impact documentation for the council’s 2024-25 budget saving proposals, please visit stirling.gov.uk/bigconversation

Why does Stirling Council have an estimated budget shortfall of over £16m?

The council’s budget gap for 2024-25 was estimated to have been around £13million at the end of last year, a figure highlighted in our Big Conversation with residents. This has increased to due to new and ongoing financial pressures.

In Stirling Council nearly 79% of the budget comes from a Scottish Government grant and our share of the Government’s non-domestic rates or business rates, with the rest raised from council tax.

On 19 December, the Scottish Government published its Local Government Settlement for 2024-25 – the annual funding award for councils – which included funding for a potential council tax freeze.

COSLA, a cross-party organisation that is the voice of local government in Scotland, calculated this amounted to a cut in core revenue funding (the money used to deliver key services like bin collections, education and roads maintenance) for councils of £62.7m for 2024-25, meaning the funding offered for a council tax freeze only equated to a 2.8% rise. Last year, Stirling Council raised council tax by 7%. 

An independent report published this month by the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows funding available to Scottish councils will only go up by 1.8% in real terms next year, coming at a time when councils continue to face a perfect storm as demand for services increases along with the price of delivering them.

The report on the council’s budget says that once ring-fenced grants and new funding which come with spending commitments were removed, the council’s core grant allocation from the Scottish Government for 2024-25 decreased by £1.295m from last year.

It also highlighted that the Scottish Government draft budget provides £147m for the council tax freeze across all Scottish local authorities, with the council’s provisional share amounting to £2.923M, equating to a 4.9% increase in Council Tax.

More information

For more information, please visit stirling.gov.uk/bigconversation

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