Council hailed for ‘significant improvements’ but further savings needed

Falkirk Council has been urged to make savings to plug a £62.5m budget gap.

Falkirk Council hailed for ‘significant improvements’ but further savings needed LDRS

Falkirk Council has been praised for its “significant improvements” over the last two years, but it has been urged to make savings to plug a £62.5m black hole by 2028-29.

A report from the Accounts Commission published on Thursday praised changes to how the council operates, including a “consensual approach” between officers and councillors and performance reporting.

But the watchdog warned of the need for more recurring savings to be found to shrink the gap, with £38m already laid out in the recent financial strategy published by the authority, through “transformation, fees and charging”.

The council, its report said, had managed to find non-recurring savings in recent years, but this was no longer sustainable.

Jo Armstrong, the chairwoman of the Accounts Commission, said: “Falkirk Council, like all other councils in Scotland, faces significant financial challenges. Delivering services in the same way with less money won’t work.

“Given the scale of financial savings needed, it must make real transformations in how it works and delivers services.

“The council has an excellent approach to reporting how services are performing.

“Now it must harness this information to drive improvements and address services that are underperforming, particularly delivering stronger, healthier communities.

“Falkirk Council must take note of the Accounts Commission’s findings, which are there to encourage and provide momentum to support the council to make changes that are increasingly urgent.”

Kenneth Lawrie, the chief executive of the council said while the report was a “positive acknowledgement” of work done by the council, it also highlighted the “massive financial and operational challenges that lie ahead of us”.

“There is no denying the fact we still have a financial mountain to climb and must find savings to close a £62m budget gap,” he added.

“That is not going to be easy, and tough decisions will need to be made. It is clear, however, that the collaborative efforts of our elected members and officers have been fundamental in driving positive change over the past two years.

“As we move forward, maintaining and strengthening that collaborative spirit will be more vital than ever.

“It will be key in navigating the difficult choices that lie ahead and in ensuring the successful delivery of our strategic priorities.”

While council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said the findings would act “as a guide” for the council, adding: “Our goal is to ensure local people not only feel heard and valued but also part of the decision-making process.”

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