West Lothian prioritises education and social care in 2021/22 budget
Spending plans for local services such as education, social care, roads and parks as well as homelessness reduction have been approved as part of West Lothian Council’s Revenue Budget for 2021/22.
Freezing Council Tax for the upcoming year, the local authority agreed a raft of spending measures that will see over £453 million of significant ongoing investment in local services and support packages for those in most need.
A total of 80% of the council’s revenue budget is spent on three priority areas. Education will continue to see the largest amount of single investment (£189 million), while social care (£113.2m) - which includes care homes, social work, care at home, care for vulnerable people - and operational services (£57.7m) - which includes roads, waste disposal, parks, maintenance of open spaces, flood prevention, fleet/community transport and subsidies for public transport - will also see investment.
Key aspects of the budget include:
- Investment to meet an increase in the cost of complex care for a rapidly growing elderly population
- Investment to help reduce homelessness
- An increase in health and social care funding
- £1m set aside to meet a demand for financial support via the Scottish Welfare Fund
- £2m to support the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, as demand is expected to rise as unemployment increases due to the furlough scheme winding down in 2021
- additional funding for school clothing grants and food support packages delivered in partnership between third sector groups and the council.
- A £1m Winter Resilience fund to allow for an urgent response to winter weather
- Although West Lothian has one of the best road networks in Scotland, an additional £750,000 will be spent on repairing potholes following the recent extended period of cold winter weather. This is in addition to the £4.5m that will be invested in road and footways upgrades through the council’s capital investment programme in 2021/22
- £1.3m to provide payments to those assessed as being eligible for Free School Meals during all school holidays from Summer 2021 onwards, all to enable parents/children to purchase food during school holiday periods.
Following the confirmation of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the impact on council services and budgets has been unprecedented. The pandemic will have a continued impact on the council’s financial position in 2021/22 and beyond
Over £21m will be spent by the council next year offsetting costs associated with COVID-19 and other initiatives such as training, employment and anti-poverty.
Extra investment of £3.7m to meet the challenges that schools and families have experienced during lockdown, all to help with the educational recovery of young people. An investment of £1.7m will go towards increasing nursery hours to 1,140 hours.
From the Jobs Task Force fund, nearly £2m will be spent next year to help economic growth. These funds will support new higher-value jobs, and upskilling/reskilling of staff to help firms meet short/medium-term economic challenges. This is a large increase from the £895,000 in the previous year which supported 360 new high value jobs in sectors including life sciences and technology.
Additional investment of £600,000 will be used help tackle climate change.
West Lothian Council said Scottish Government funding “continues to be insufficient to meet increasing costs and demands for services” and has put budget reduction measures of £9m in place next year to meet the shortfall in funding and balance the budget. It is estimated that between April 2007 and March 2023 West Lothian Council will have made budget savings of over £151m due to prolonged constraints in Scottish Government funding, which is over £1,920 per household in West Lothian.
Leader of West Lothian Council, Councillor Lawrence Fitzpatrick, said: “Despite the challenges, West Lothian remains a great place to live and work and growing numbers of people continue to choose to call West Lothian their home. This council will continually strive to enhance services for the benefit of all.”