Councillors have agreed a number of long term financial planning actions which will help the Council to bridge the funding gap over the next four years.
The Council's revenue budget of £115.384 million for the year ahead was agreed at today's Special Council meeting. The 2014/15 budget also included savings of £4.312 million.
Council tax is to be frozen for the seventh year, maintaining bills at 2007/08 levels. This results in Band D remaining at £1,148.
Council Leader Gary Womersley said: "We are delivering a wide-range of initiatives which I believe will make a difference to the people of Clackmannanshire. We are incorporating solid longer term actions as part of our business improvement programme, 'Making Clackmannanshire Better'. The theme of this budget is financial stability and sustainability, while preserving performance levels and continuing to achieve the best possible outcomes for the people of Clackmannanshire.
"This budget does include significant savings and, in light of the challenging financial context within which the Council now operates, we have made major efforts to improve our approach to budget consultation. I'm pleased to say that the response to our various engagement activities was substantial. Feedback has been wide ranging and diverse and has been taken on board. There was an acknowledgement from partners, the public and service users that there are difficult decisions to be made. The Council's efforts to seek views and opinions were welcomed and there was broad consensus on proposals for change, with the majority of respondents indicating that the Council should make more efficient and widespread use of Council buildings, schools and community facilities. Likewise there was overall consensus that the Council should make it easier to access Council services."
Growth items announced at the budget meeting include:
Councillor Womersley also announced that an allocation of £5,000 will be set aside which will go towards the potential establishment of new holiday lunch clubs for children who are entitled to free school meals. A report on this possible initiative will come before Council in March.
The Council Leader added: "The scale of the challenge facing the Council remains clear, especially given the level of savings already made in previous years. That's why I'm pleased that we are now able to establish a longer term outlook, which will assist in bridging the anticipated gap of £25 million to 2018.
"This has been a challenging process and we have had to make difficult decisions. Some of the decisions we have made today will change the way that services are delivered. We have focused on agreed priorities and planned for future increasing demand for our services, while trying to preserve performance levels and minimise the impact on local residents as much as possible.
"In order to realise this level of savings within an appropriate timescale it is important that the Council's business improvement programme of activity, 'Making Clackmannanshire Better' is progressed further."
Another key theme of this budget has been to start the process of better integration of service delivery and the 'Making Clackmannanshire Better' improvement agenda, with financial planning. As a key service provider in the community, the Council is facing significant pressures to reduce costs, at a time when there is also increasing demand for Council services from our communities.
This means that the Council needs to carry out a fundamental review of what it does, to make sure that it is providing the right services to the right people in the best ways possible.
A significant proportion of the Council's costs relate to the cost of employment. It is clear that these costs will need to be reduced to allow the Council to function within its funding allocations in the future. As far as possible, it is proposed that this process would be delivered through a managed reduction of staffing levels in line with the service delivery priorities identified through the Making Clackmannanshire Better Programme. To facilitate this process, an Employment Fund is being established which will be used to meet any associated costs.
The Council Leader was keen to publically acknowledge the role both staff and unions have played, in helping ensure there are no compulsory redundancies as part of the budget.
The Special Council meeting heard that addressing the impact of demographic trends and employment and health issues in Clackmannanshire presents a considerable challenge for the public sector, especially alongside the forecast level of a continuing real terms reduction in the resources available. It is anticipated that planned welfare reform changes will continue to impact on a significant proportion of the area, creating changes in the historic levels of demand and service usage.
For the first time, the General Services and Housing Revenue Account budgets were presented together, as part of the process of better alignment and integration of service delivery and financial planning decisions in support of 'Making Clackmannanshire Better'.