Council warns cuts to services may grow

CUTS to public services across the Capital are set to be even deeper than first planned, it emerged today.

The city council has already announced that it plans to make 90 million of cuts over the next three years, with every department boss instructed to strip out four per cent of front line costs in order to plug the black hole.

It has now emerged that even that may not be enough, with the deepening public finance crisis meaning bigger cuts could be required.

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It is understood that council leader Jenny Dawe has briefed some staff groups, warning them that some forecasts about council funding are "truly frightening" and that "things might well get worse".

It is thought that council departments could have to strip out up to 6.5 per cent from their budgets next year.

Councillors approved 41m of savings in the budget for this year, which included closing community centres and a review of nurseries that could lead to closures. Every head teacher also saw their school's budget reduced by one per cent.

John Stevenson, president of the Edinburgh branch of the trade union Unison, said: "Our calculations are that, depending on what the government do, the savings could need to be more than expected. The future is looking very grim indeed.

"What people forget is how much the council has saved already over the last three years and how many efficiency savings our members have already suffered.

"The murmurs around Waverley Court are that the savings cannot be achieved without stopping doing things.

"The main fear is the big-spending departments: education and children and families, and health and social care. They provide direct services to people – and often vulnerable people – but they are the ones that could face bigger cuts."

Labour leader Councillor Andrew Burns said: "The six per cent figure is being looked at very seriously by council directors, although it has not yet been confirmed to any committee."

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He added: "It seriously worries me that it will have a big impact on front line services."

City leaders say that they expect to have a better impression of the extent of savings needed at the end of this month, following the UK Government's budget announcement.

They admit that national negotiations on the pay award for council workers could also hit the city's finances.

Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city's finance leader, said: "The savings target to be delivered by the council over the next three years is still over 90m.

"This situation could change, however, as the UK Government's budget announcement will be followed by a spending review in September.

"There are also still some variables in the council's budget, such as the annual staff pay award, and the financial situation is being kept under constant review."