Angus council services face axe ahead of £26.5m funding gap

A Scottish council is preparing to axe services and make further cuts to help meet a £26.5 million black hole in its budget.

The East and Old Church, Forfar.

And there are fears that political infighting on Angus Council may damage efforts to plug its funding problems after three opposition councillors quit its influential budget strategy group.

Angus Council has already set out plans to find £15.2m of cuts, but there is still £11.2m it will need to find a report by the public spending watchdog Audit Scotland finds.

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But the authority insists its “ambitious change programme” for the county is delivering results after the report for the Accounts Commission said it was heading in the “right direction.”

“Like all councils, Angus faces increasing financial pressures,” the report states. “It has estimated that it needs to find savings of around £26.5m over the next three years, and plans for some of these savings to come from efficiencies and service reductions.”

Much of the savings hinge on the Transforming Angus programme which includes plans to sell off council properties and move to more digital transactions but there are fears that the pace of change has been slow and its not clear what results it will bring.

Douglas Sinclair, chair of the Accounts Commission, said: “Angus Council is heading in the right direction as an organisation but it is only now implementing initiatives which many other councils have already done.

“If the council is going to confront increasingly tough financial challenges, it needs to get more ambitious and speed up the pace of change.”

Political infighting at the council has come under fire in previous audit reports. Although this has improved, concerns are raised in the report after opposition councillors Brian Boyd, Ronnie Proctor and Ian Mclaren stood down from the budget strategy group.

“This risks an end to the recent political consensus, making it difficult for the minority administration to provide effective and consistent leadership,” the report adds.

But council leader Ian Gaul said the authority has changed significantly in the past few years in “structure and culture.”

He added: “In the coming months we’ll be talking to residents about council priorities and spending for the next 4-5 years. The strong strategic leadership and rigorous scrutiny that we now have in place will help us make the tough but essential decisions to close the significant funding gap.”