No rabbits, no hats, in council budget

A calculator, pen, and financial statement.
A calculator, pen, and financial statement.

As expected there were no surprises in the Angus Council budget which was agreed at a full council meeting last week.

On Thursday the elected members gathered in Forfar to discuss the budget for the coming year which they agreed in less than an hour.

The local authority’s budget for 2015/16 is £242 million, with the £19 million savings package agreed in last year’s budget still on track, with around £5.6 million of cuts scheduled for this year.

For the 10th consecutive year council tax remained frozen with continued investment in the school estate the most significant expenditure in the budget.

Angus Council leader Councillor Iain Gaul emphasised that transparency and cooperation were at the heart of the local authority’s plans for 2015/16.

He said: “There are no surprises in our budget now, there are no rabbits pulled out of our hats. What we do now is a rolling three year budget which we discuss with officers and members in Members’ Officers Groups (MOGs). We have non-members sit in on the budget setting groups. They take a full and active part in it, we also brief all members prior to the budget moving forward so there are no surprises. I’m afraid it’s all terribly boring.”

He continued: “It means what we are trying to do is plan further ahead. Previously what we did was go to one department and say ‘we need you to save five per cent’ and then go to another department and say ‘we need you to say five per cent’. But they didn’t necessarily speak to each other so what might happen is that saving might have a negative impact on another department’s budget.

“We’ve got one budget now which is the council budget so everybody should know what is going on. People are sometimes offended by this expression, but it’s a more grown up way of working. We’ve taken politics away from it and we do what’s best for Angus, which is good if we can keep that as our focus.

“We’ve recognised the risks that are facing the council, we’ve got a plan of how we are going to deal with these risks and how we are going to deal with the cuts we’ve got to make.

“It’s not all bad news either because the Government have asked us to introduce school meals programmes and early years learning programmes. Although these are extra tasks we have they are also being fully funded by them.”