THE BUDGET package announced by the Scottish Government last week will leave Fife Council with a gap of £9m and possible job losses.

Commenting on the implications of the Scottish Budget proposals for Fife, Cllr David Ross, Labour Co-Leader of Fife Council said, “The sad fact is that as a result of yesterday’s Scottish Budget proposals, Fife still faces a £4m cut in its core grant and will have to make significant cuts in services to make ends meet.

“Although I welcome some of the changes in the Scottish budget proposals announced on Thursday compared with the draft set out in December, Fife is still facing a significant cut of £4m in its core grant from the SNP Scottish Government.

“I am disappointed that the Scottish Government hasn’t done more to recognise the huge financial pressures councils are under this year, and this budget will still mean cuts to services and job losses.

“Whilst it’s true that Fife will see an increase of £16m in its overall funding next year, £24m of this increase is ring fenced for new costs and initiatives we have to carry out at the direction of the Scottish Government and can’t be used to support existing services. We also face increased costs for pay and inflation as well as increased demand for services like social care.

“The result of all this is a budget gap of over £9m between what it would cost to maintain our current level of services and our income for next year. We estimate we will still have to raise the council tax by 3% and make cuts of at least £4.5m to produce a balanced budget.

“These cuts are likely to include more cuts to education, cuts in road maintenance, cuts to community services and further cuts to central and support services. These aren’t cuts we want to make but are a direct result of the cut in our budget from the Scottish Government".

He added: “As a result of the budget, we have the option to raise council tax by 4.79%. Our Joint Administration has already stated its intention of raising the council tax by 3% next year, broadly in line with inflation. We will discuss the possibility of a further rise but at this stage I think it unlikely, given the other pressures local households are already facing.

“On a more positive note, I believe the work the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) has done in the run up to the budget has not only helped mitigate the impact of the cuts from the Scottish Government, but has also given us an opportunity to change the way in which local government is funded in both the medium and the longer term.

“The Scottish Government has given a commitment to Cosla that it will look at a 3 year funding settlement for local government from 20120/21 which will give a degree of much needed certainty and sustainability to local councils, based on rules to be developed in conjunction with Cosla. In the longer term they will reopen cross party talks on a replacement for the council tax.

“Taken together I hope these commitments will provide a real opportunity to put council funding on a sustainable footing for the long term so we can avoid the damaging level of cuts we have seen over the past 10 years.”

Conservative leader on the council Dave Dempsey is also concerned: “Quite apart from breaking a string of SNP manifesto promises, the proposed new taxes are wrong for Fife.

"Taxing workplace car parks might be fine in a city where there’s a bus due in two minutes with another three minutes behind that but it won’t work across large parts of Fife where public transport is infrequent or non-existent. And it would have unintended consequences such as displacing cars into surrounding streets.

“Tourism is a key growth area in Fife. Edinburgh may feel it has enough tourists but we want them on this side of the Forth. Taxing them when they arrive isn’t going to help".

He added: “Finally, while the SNP Government’s failure to pass on extra cash to councils may make a Council Tax rise inevitable, voters aren’t going to take kindly to higher bills for ever-diminishing levels of service.

"Fife Council needs to find better ways of spending the money it has rather than hiking taxes. Council officers know how to do this but the ideological stance of Labour and the SNP stops them".