COUNCIL tax in East Renfrewshire will rise by three per cent from April after the local authority’s budget was approved.

Members of East Renfrewshire Council backed plans presented by council leader Tony Buchanan, which claim to protect frontline services, jobs and the area’s most vulnerable residents.

Two amendments to the budget were put forward but were voted against.

One came from Tory councillor Stewart Miller, while the second was proposed by independent Paul Aitken.

Barrhead News:

Announcing his proposals, Cllr Buchanan said the council had faced pressures due to the “considerable double challenge” of a rising elderly and growing younger population, which puts demands on schools, nurseries and social care services.

The authority expects to receive almost £180 million from the Scottish Government and is facing a spending gap of almost £12m.

More than £9m of savings have already been outlined and an additional £1.9m shortfall will be covered from council reserves.

Around 65 per cent of savings will come from efficiencies, the council says. This includes removing pupil support assistants from classrooms.

Cuts include a £500,000 reduction of the devolved school management budgets.

Cllr Buchanan revealed a £212m investment in a range of infrastructure projects over the next eight years.

Barrhead News:

Speaking to the Barrhead News, the leader of East Renfrewshire Council said: “We face ongoing pressures as a result of both a rising elderly population and growing numbers of young people.

“This considerable double challenge places high demands on our schools and nurseries, as well as social care services.

“Despite these challenges, we have been able to balance the books and progress plans to deliver a number of major projects which will improve the services which matter most to our residents.

“Due in part to our prudent approach to long-term financial planning, we have not used the extra flexibility from the Scottish Government to increase council tax by up to 4.79 per cent.

“Last year, we agreed on a three per cent rise for 2019/20 and we are sticking to that.

”The Tory amendment, presented by Cllr Miller, promised to only raise council tax by two per cent, while it suggested cutting funding for citizen’s advice services."

Cllr Miller outlined plans to raise money through advertising on council vehicles and suggested putting £1m back into the council’s reserves.

He said: “According to the independent Scottish parliamentary information centre, there has been a real-terms increase in funding from Westminster to the Scottish Government for the financial year of 2019/20.

“Where has this money gone? Members will remember that this meeting last year had to be postponed by 24 hours because of the Beast from the East.

“The only beast we have from the east this year is the SNP’s budget settlement.” 

He criticised Cllr Buchanan’s claim the budget protected frontline services, saying if he asked pupil support assistants “you might get a completely different answer”.

Cllr Miller also said there was “considerable concern and anxiety over where these new nurseries are located”, adding if all nurseries were council-owned then private nurseries would be put out of business.

“This would cost the council more money to build more nurseries,” he said.

Meanwhile, independent Cllr Paul Aitken’s amendment proposed cancelling £138,000 of cuts to music services, which he said was “merely a euphemism for cuts to school music instructors”.

In response, SNP councillor Colm Merrick said the savings would have no impact on children receiving music tuition. 

Cllr Merrick said: “These are three management positions we are talking about.”

Cllr Buchanan criticised the Tory amendment, saying the Scottish Government’s budget had been reduced by £340m by the UK Government.

He said suggested cuts to citizen’s advice, which deals “with the most vulnerable in our society”, were “absolutely appalling”. 

The council confirmed no compulsory redundancies would be required in the coming financial year.

It was also confirmed there were no plans to introduce a Workplace Parking Levy or Tourist Tax.

Cllr Buchanan added: “Our ambition very much remains to deliver the very best for our residents.”