The news that Fife Council is facing a £7.4 million overspend (The Courier p.7 / 14.9.19) should surprise no one. The Scottish Government has disproportionately cut local authority funding by 7.1% since 2013 when its own budget from Westminster only fell by 1.3%.
Every year since then Fife Council has had to find “savings”, or cuts, to balance its books, and of course, it has got harder and harder to do so without seriously detracting from the service the Council should be offering.
Salami-slicing Council operations year in year out is a depressing enterprise which yields diminishing returns. Everyone suffers: staff absence rates are rising as are customer complaints.
Nevertheless it is disingenuous of Council leaders to keep asserting that the cuts and the looming budget gap are all someone else’s responsibility.
We need a thorough rethink of Council services which resets them according to what the third and private sectors could deliver as well or better, and more economically, than the Council. Whistleblowers from Transportation recently highlighted how private contractors cost a third less than Council squads when carrying out roads maintenance.
Fife’s SNP and Labour coalition pretend this is an ideological step too far, even though the Council has been outsourcing millions of pounds’ worth of services for years. Energy, vision and courage are required if we are to match our aspirations to our means.