Dec 7 2012 by Craig Robertson, Kilmarnock Standard
Millions of pounds were cut from East Ayrshire Council’s budget yesterday — with a warning of more to come.
Councillors have sanctioned proposals which will see around £25m cut from the authority’s budget over the next three years.
But members of Wednesday’s cabinet meeting were warned that another £9m will have to be found in 12 months’ time to fend off a financial black hole.
The cuts are necessary because of reductions in public spending and the grants being made available from Government.
A total of £34m has to come out of council spending by 2016/17.
Councillors went through a list of savings one by one on Wednesday and delivered the majority as recommended by officials.
Labour opposed several areas but were overruled by the ruling SNP/Conservative administration.
Some of the most controversial points, such as changes to school transport, were amended following the public consultation last month.
Finance director Alex McPhee told councillors that the local authority was facing some of its toughest times and stated in a report that the £25m cut on Wednesday was only the beginning.
He said: “Work is continuing in all areas of the council to identify further opportunities to redesign, refocus and possibly terminate certain services to release additional savings with the intention of bringing forward proposals by December 2013.”
He said those cuts may have to be more “radical” than the ones before members now.
Officers have now been directed to carry out the work to implement the savings which will see staff offered voluntary redundancy and the size of the council’s services reduced.
Speaking before the meeting, council chief executive Fiona Lees promised to get to work straight away on the extra savings which could end up being even higher if the economic outlook worsens.
A review of her management structure is the first priority, she said.
But she wouldn’t say whether she was in a favour of the creation of one council for Ayrshire following comments by Scottish Government Minister Kenny MacAskill that Scotland’s 32 local authorities could be reduced to save money.
Ms Lees told the Standard: “Our job is to do our best for this council and that is what we will do.
“But we do recognise that there are things we can do on a shared basis and what we have said is we will look at every single council service to see if it could be done on a shared basis.”
*On these pages the Standard looks at the main areas where savings have been made.