Stirling Council will ensure it can continue to support communities during the coronavirus pandemic by safeguarding vital services under a revised budget published today (2 Oct).
Budget 2020

Under the plans, there will also be a significant investment in technology to protect continuity and enhancement of services, whilst working remotely and for the long term.

Councillors will meet next Thursday (8 Oct) to discuss and decide the proposals in the revised budget to deal with the financial challenges the local authority is facing during the current crisis.

Since the UK was placed in lockdown back in March, the Council has adapted, finding new ways to deliver essential services for our communities.

These include:

  • Adapted methods for staff to continue to collect waste with different work patterns from around 44,000 households each week during the challenging lockdown period.
  • Almost 2,000 local volunteers recruited among staff and members of the public.
  • Reassigned displaced staff from other duties to help answer more than 1,260 support calls by May, from people forced to ‘shield’ from this deadly virus.
  • Created new, safe spaces to look after more than 360 children by June in our key worker childcare hubs, ensuring health and blue light services could continue to respond to the growing emergency.
  • Our staff going the extra mile for our communities by supporting services hit worst by the virus, such as our catering team who made 10,000 meals in the first week alone, which were delivered by a volunteer force of drivers from across the Council workforce.
  • Staff taking on additional roles to process almost £24 million of lifeline business support grants to local businesses as of 31 August
  • Delivering free school meals to 2,056 children by the return of schools in August.

No cuts to core services

The changes and demands on service delivery have had far-reaching effects on the Council’s finances and resources - costs have increased and incomes have reduced, resulting in a financial impact in the region of £7.6 million, after taking account of some additional funding received from the Scottish Government.

However, the Council’s careful long-term planning will enable it to fund this shortfall over the rest of the financial year by drawing on reserves and any additional Government funding.

Crucially, this would mean no cuts to core services over the next six months, with the public health emergency still ongoing, though there may be longer-term implications to future spend.

Heroic efforts

Stirling Council Leader, Cllr Scott Farmer said: “I have marvelled at the heroic efforts of our staff who have continued to deliver essential services during the pandemic. 

“With the virus still very much a threat as we head into the winter months, it is vital the Council can continue to support communities and look after our most vulnerable people.

“By prudently planning for these types of emergency situations, we are in a position to do this, despite the huge financial challenges faced by every local authority.

“The proposals will provide the short-term financial stability we need to bolster core services but, given the unpredictability of the pandemic and the potential of further restrictions, we are prepared to revisit this situation if more support is required.”

Will be completed

The pandemic has also caused a recalibration of the 2020/21 capital budget, which now stands at more than £34 million. This annual programme delivers significant investment in Stirling’s infrastructure and supports the local authority’s six key priorities.

Lockdown has delayed the completion of a number of projects, such as the conversion of the former RBS building in Bannockburn into a business and community hub and the development of a new football pitch in Dunblane.

Under the proposals, these will be completed next year with any additional funding prioritised from next year’s capital budget.

To ensure the delivery of essential services to communities during the pandemic, including high-quality learning and care for children and young people, the Council has already significantly invested in digital technology, equipment and other building alterations.

Grow and prosper

Depute Leader, Cllr Danny Gibson said: “These plans will ensure the diverse range of projects that were put on hold due to lockdown will be completed next year and provide the necessary investment to continue delivering critical services during the pandemic.

“This package of investments will allow us to meet the current financial challenges, provide the best possible services to our communities and ensure the whole Stirling area can grow and prosper once we emerge from this crisis.

“Investing in digital technology will also increase the local authority’s flexibility and efficiency for delivering services to the communities for many years to come.

“Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the remarkable resilience and community spirit of residents throughout the emergency and thank our dedicated staff for their extraordinary efforts in the face of extreme adversity.”

Incredible response

A new video highlighting the incredible response by Council staff to the coronavirus crisis can be viewed here.

Over the coming weeks, we also be telling the first-hand stories of our front line services, our #StirlingHeroes, on our social channels.

Cllr Farmer added: “I know these are still difficult and uncertain times for the people of the whole Stirling area but we will emerge from this crisis, hopefully as soon as possible, and the Council will be there to support and work with residents every step of the way.”

Budget decision

Councillors will make decisions on the revised 2020/21 budget proposals, which can be downloaded here next Thursday (8 October). A recording of the committee meeting will be available to view on the Council’s YouTube channel that day.