ARGYLL and Bute Council will have to make estimated savings of more than £9 million in the next financial year, according to a new report.

The challenge faced by the local authority in 2020/21 is set out in documents to be considered by councillors next week.

Among the potential savings options identified are the complete removal of all school crossing patrollers, increasing burial charges by 20 per cent and cremation fees by 15 per cent, the closure of up to 25 public conveniences, and the removal of pupil support assistant hours within primary schools.

READ MORE: 'It's your job to get kids to school safely', parents told as school crossing patrols face axe

Council leader, Councillor Aileen Morton, said: “There are no easy options left for making more savings.

"We’ve delivered £57million in savings since 2010, we’ve had the third highest cut in funding of all of Scotland’s councils in recent years, and estimates show we will have to deliver another £9.2 million of savings next year.

"The scale of the savings potentially required means that all options open to councils to take must be explored and identified, including some of the most valued services – the services which, if things were different, we would like to protect and grow.

"The majority of the council’s funding comes from the Scottish Government. As we don’t expect to know until January next year exactly how much funding this council will get for next year, we have to identify as many savings options as possible just now so we can deliver a balanced budget in February.

"We recently secured a rural growth deal of £50 million for Argyll and Bute. While this is great news, this one-off funding cannot be used to bridge gaps in our budget; it must be used to deliver specific economic development objectives to be agreed with the UK and Scottish Governments.”

READ MORE: £50m rural growth deal cash confirmed for Argyll and Bute

Depute council leader and policy lead for strategic finance, Councillor Gary Mulvaney, added: “Delivering more savings will mean focusing on duties and growth: we must protect the services all councils have a duty to provide, and we must achieve the population and economic growth Argyll and Bute depends on to grow a successful future.

"A number of options open to the council to take are outlined in the reports. More must be found before council meets to set its budget in February, and our officers will continue to explore where further savings could be found.

"The views and ideas of our communities have helped us set our budget in previous years and are especially welcome when the decisions to be made are as difficult as those that will be needed to balance our budget in 2020.”

If agreed at full council on Thursday, October 17, the council will run a consultation asking local residents for their views on service priorities.

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