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£3m cuts plan for deprived areas

ONE of Scotland's smallest councils, which covers some of the most socially-deprived areas in the country, has outlined plans to save almost £3 million.

The proposals include closing old people's homes and day care centres, removing free school milk and breakfast clubs and trawling for redundancies.

West Dunbartonshire Council officials have compiled cuts options worth £3.8m, just over £1m more than the savings needed for the next financial year.

The authority has made its proposals public and asked for feedback on where it should make its savings.

The final decision on this year's cuts will be made next month.

In all, West Dunbartonshire Council needs to make savings worth £10.5m across the next three years, at a time when all local authorities face a massive financial squeeze of varying degrees for the foreseeable future.

Most will be making their plans public across the coming weeks, with some already outlining the stark cuts required.

North Lanarkshire will decide later this month how it will cut £74m between now and 2016, while Glasgow is due to unveil its proposals in the coming days.

Among the proposals are reducing the level of older people's care and closing Boquhanran Care Home in Clydebank to save £600,000 and shutting the Queen Mary Day Care Unit for pensioners, also in Clydebank, for a further £260,000.

Charging the full rates for care home placements and removing the £560-a-week subsidy some receive would save a further £360,000, while stopping free transport for community groups would result in another £100,000 staying in the bank.

Care packages for adults with alcohol-related brain damage, cutting the fund to promote independent living for those with learning disabilities and cutting respite services are also mooted.

Municipal bowling greens in Drumry and Faifley could close, winter maintenance could be scaled back, school crossing patrols may be cut, and people could be charged for using credit or debit cards to pay their council tax.

The council's education department would also be significantly hit by the first raft in several years of cuts.

The qualifying distance for free school transport would increase by one mile to save £187,000, after-schools services would be hit, the outdoor education centre closed to save £125,000, breakfast clubs axed for £260,000, the nutrition-promoting budget cut by £300,000, school lets in primary schools reduced and free milk removed.

West Dunbartonshire Council leader Martin Rooney said: "The first thing to stress is the council has not yet agreed any of the departmental savings options.

"All councillors will need to decide which savings to support and we are currently reviewing the information that has been provided to us.

"That makes this a really powerful consultation because rather than simply commenting on a budget plan that to all intents and purposes had already been agreed, residents will get to put forward their case on the issues that really matter to them before any decisions are made."

Chief executive Joyce White said: "We estimate savings of around £10.5m will be required over the next three years and the more tough choices taken in this budget the easier it will be to close that gap in the final two years.

"There is no easy solution to this challenge and this new consultation process is designed to ask residents not only what options they dislike, but crucially, what they would be prepared to support."

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