By Monica Gibson

People living in East Renfrewshire should be prepared to pay more and receive less as the local authority warns “things are going to get worse.”

On Monday, East Renfrewshire Council (ERC) launched a consultation on its budget for 2018-21, outlining how they plan on making almost £30million in savings.

Lorraine McMillan, ERC chief executive, told the Barrhead News: “Since 2012, we have saved £37million. This was largely found in making efficiencies but there are no more efficiencies left.

“We now need to save another £26million by 2021, so we are in a position where we have to start making cuts.

“We are advised inflation will be around 2.9 per cent. We also anticipate our annual funding from the Scottish Government will reduce in cash terms.

“At the same time, four per cent of our population in East Renfrewshire is over 85, so we have an ageing population which means demand is going up.”

To recoup some cash, council tax will rise across the region – a move described by chiefs as a necessary evil.

In February, ERC increased council tax by three per cent in what was their first hike in a decade.

At the time, the council said it would swell the coffers by around £1.5m a year.

However, residents should not be looking for a reprieve from more hikes but, instead, expect annual increases.

Ms McMillan said: “In forecasting an anticipated savings gap of £26million, we have made a number of assumptions.

“This includes assuming that council tax in our area will continue to rise by three per cent each year, over the next three years.

“We have also assumed that our cash grant will recognise the growth in our population and therefore not reduce by more than 2.5 per cent each year.

“However, if our grant reduces by more than 2.5 per cent and if we do not increase council tax, then the level of savings needed would be much higher than £26million.”

ERC bosses point out that council tax rates in East Renfrewshire are already below the national average but say they do appreciate that many residents in higher band houses had a considerable rise in council tax last year as part of national changes.

Should the latest proposals go ahead, it would mean that, by 2021, council tax will have risen by just over nine per cent.

Therefore, council tax in a band D property – which today is £1,160 – will be £1,194 in 2018/19, £1,230 in 2019/20 and £1,267 in 2020/21.

Ms McMillan added: “The result of a freeze would see a major reduction in funding to our schools, in our public infrastructure such as roads, in our local environment such as parks and cleansing services and in large-scale cuts to social care.”

Bosses also suggested there is a possibility the increase could be even higher, should residents express an appetite to cough up more money in a bid to safeguard the services they deem most important.

Ms McMillan said: “We will be asking people at our consultation for their thoughts on council tax and every aspect of the budget.

“People may be happy to see a four or five per cent increase in council tax, if it will create relief elsewhere.”

Councillor Tony Buchanan, leader of ERC, added: “What we want to be is transparent. We have to make savings. We don’t necessarily want to but we have to.”