Budget Watch

27th November 2009 at 00:00

Scrapping hot school meals and free access for children to leisure facilities are the latest proposals being considered by councils looking to make swingeing cuts.

South Lanarkshire Council needs to plug a hole of pound;111 million over the next four years; Edinburgh City Council hopes to save pound;90m in three. Both authorities are predicting a severe reduction in Government funding, which has led to the proposals, with Edinburgh describing the scale of the challenge as "unheard-of in modern times".

In Edinburgh, pressure on services, such as those for vulnerable children is increasing and the council predicts pound;1.8m will be needed in the next financial year for new foster care places. As a result of the various pressures, every council department, including children and families, has to strip out 4 per cent of frontline costs for each of the next three years, whilst support costs are to be reduced by 10 per cent next year and another 4 per cent in each of the following two years.

The council plans to close schools; slash budgets by an extra 2.5 per cent - equating to pound;5m next year; put plans for free school meals in P1-3 on hold; increase the cost of meals by 5p; replace hot meals in secondary with packed lunches; charge more for school milk, rising from 3p to 14p a day; remove free full-time nursery places; and provide free transport only for those who live three miles away instead of two.

South Lanarkshire, meanwhile, is looking for savings of pound;21m over the course of the next financial year, rising to pound;30m in each of the following three financial years.

Cuts proposed to education include reducing free fruit in P1-2 from five days a week to three; stopping free access to leisure facilities for under-16s; "reorganising" the availability of drinking water in primaries; operating school transport at the statutory level and increasing the cost of school meals by 20p a day.

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