Angus Council leader says authority is in “a reasonably good place”

Alex King and Iain Gaul
Alex King and Iain Gaul

The leader of Angus Council has said the authority is constantly looking ahead to future budgets in the hope that nothing comes out of the works that the council isn’t prepared for.

SNP leader Iain Gaul said the council has created three-year rolling plans for the budget, as a result of which it is in a “reasonably good” situation.

Cllr Gaul and Alex King, finance convenor, laid out the challenges the authority faces, as the council prepares to publish its budget for the next three years this month.

Finance Secretary John Swinney previously announced that the county’s budget will be reduced by £6.4m this year, from £203.7m last year to £197.3m this year.

Cllr Gaul said: “Once we a have got a three-year plan we are still looking more than the three years so there is nothing that is going to come out left field that we haven’t had a look at. We hope.”

Cllr King added: “There is a lot of detail that has still got to be fixed down before papers go out and the officers are working extremely hard.

“As the years go on we will have a continually rolling three-year plan.

“Its a case of every time you come forward you add another year on to the three-year plan so you’ve always got a three-year plan.”

Cllr King explained the 2016/17 budget is based on 2014/15 three-year plan. The council is now looking at “rolling forward” another three-year plan to 2019/20.

Cllr Gaul added: “There are problems that have come to light, there’s been shortages, but we’ve been looking ahead. We’re in a reasonably good place.

“Rather than lots of councils who look at ‘this is doom and gloom, this is cuts’ we’re looking at things that we’re doing and that we’re changing. Change is not necessarily bad. We’re looking at how we can change things for the better.”

He said the council is looking more at going digital and hopes to be paperless soon.

Cllr Gaul quashed critics’ quips about the possibility of putting council tax up in order to increase the budget.

He said: “That’s a myth that’s been perpetuated by lots of people.

“The council tax has been fully funded.

“We’ve known since 2011 that there would be a council tax freeze this year because it was in the SNP Scottish Government manifesto. We’ve all known it was coming.

“If councils have not taken that into account when doing their budgets and sums that’s their fault for being so short sighted.”

Moray Council shelved plans to increase its council tax in the face of a £11.9m deficit.

Cllr Gaul said: “Personally, I think all this brouhaha that’s going about is driven because of politics and the fact that there is an election coming.

“Nobody is going to raise the council tax by 18-plus per cent - the people wouldn’t stand for it.”

Cllr King explained an extra £1 of council tax on a property raises £44,050 and only one additional investment bid of £3.5 million would cost households £200 more per year per home.

He added if the authority put up the council tax it would lose £8.2m from the Scottish Government.

Mr Gaul said council tax covers less than 15 per cent of the budget.

The council agreed a budget for 2015/16, containing £5.6m of savings despite opposition from a number of non-administration members. A further £6.8m of savings are expected in 2016/17.