Frontline services in Dundee face budget cuts

ORGANISATIONS SUPPLYING vital services to thousands of vulnerable people will be ordered to cut their own budgets to help Dundee City Council meet a £14 million savings target.

The demand for 5% efficiency savings will be made to providers of day care, supported accommodation, respite care, advocacy services, outreach services and hostels.

Class sizes will also be allowed to rise, with some primary school head teachers given the flexibility to redeploy teachers to where they think they are most needed.

It is expected that 17 teaching posts will be affected. The changes mean maximums of 18 pupils in some primary classes and 20 pupils in English and maths classes in S1 at five out of nine secondaries could be abandoned.

The proposals emerged yesterday as the council’s SNP-run administration announced how it intends to save £6.5m in 2013/14 and £7.5m the following year as it seeks to freeze council tax.

Finance spokesman Willie Sawers blamed “savage cuts” imposed by the UK Government for the need to impose the measures, but Labour group leader Kevin Keenan said the cracks were starting to show in frontline services.

The proposals will be discussed at a special council meeting on February 14, but the SNP holds a majority of the 29 council seats and should be able to push its programme through.

Some of the biggest savings will have to come from external bodies which supply social care and housing services valued at around £22 million a year.

A council statement said: “Given the proportionate level of expenditure associated with this funding for contracted services it is appropriate that these services are subject to the application of an efficiency saving.”

Only those bodies with funding of more than £100,000 a year will have to make efficiency savings.

“The organisations affected will be expected to review their administration and management costs in the first instance and not reduce levels and quality of direct care services.

“The situation will be monitored as part of the social work department’s ongoing contract monitoring arrangements.”

Mr Sawers said: “This is the seventh year that we have been able to freeze the council tax to help hard pressed families in the city.

“We have delivered a series of efficiencies across the council as agreed by the Changing for the Future Board over the last year which has helped to limit the savings we now have to find.

“However, the continuing savage cuts from the Westminster Government are forcing tough decisions on us in Dundee and making it more and more difficult to protect frontline services.

“In previous years, we have been able to cushion external organisations that provide services to people on behalf of the council, from the worst effects of year-on-year budget reductions.

“Unfortunately, we can no longer sustain this and we are asking a number of them to contribute to the overall budget position by making 5% efficiency savings.

“We are not doing this lightly as we value the contribution that these organisations make to the wellbeing of the city.

“Within the overall budget, we have increased the spending on social work services by £4.793m to help protect the most vulnerable in our community.

“We have also helped the lowest-paid employees of the council by funding the introduction of the living wage of £7.50 per hour to 234 employees at an overall cost of £192,000.”

The budget contains a reduction in mileage rates for councillors from 45p to 25p and subject to consultation with the trade unions, this will be extended to council employees. Consultation with the trade unions on wider aspects of the budget will also take place.