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Cash-strapped council set to scrap twin town arrangement

A SCOTS council has recommended scrapping its overseas 'twin town' arrangements and selling half a municipal golf course to developers as it faces additional financial pressures over the next year.

DOUBLE ACT: Clydebank may lose its twin status with a suburb of Paris, right, if the council goes ahead with the draconian cost-cutting measure, one of a raft of proposals under consideration.
DOUBLE ACT: Clydebank may lose its twin status with a suburb of Paris, right, if the council goes ahead with the draconian cost-cutting measure, one of a raft of proposals under consideration.

West Dunbartonshire is also looking at removing some of its school crossing patrols, reducing respite care for children with disabilities, closing veterans' bowling greens and even withdrawing from organisations such as Nuclear Free Local Authorities to save on administration fees.

The council, one of the smallest, needs to find cuts and savings of around £190,000 on top of the £17million it needs to find by 2017.

The area is twinned with Argenteuil, a suburb of northern Paris once favoured by French Impressionist painters but now with a spiralling crime rate.

The French suburb had previously been twinned solely with Clydebank but this was extended to cover the whole of West Dunbartonshire, with the council funding cultural visits to the area.

Although saving only around £5000, it could set the template for other authorities with a raft of twinning arrangements. Opposition politicians in Glasgow recently called for a study on the suitability and relevance of its eight twins, the reasoning behind the relationships and the motivation for retaining them. Where the relationships have no value to the city the twinning agreement should be scrapped, they claim.

There has been much concern about expensive jaunts at public expense to Europe and Asia with little to show for it.the visits.

Other options for West Dunbartonshire include reducing the 18-hole Dalmuir Golf Course to nine-holes and selling the remaining land. The council estimates this could net around £100,000, more than half the sum sought.

The closure of all Veterans' Bowling Greens would save £50,000, although the clubs could be offered a long-term lease of the facilities to cover running costs as an alternative to closure. Reducing three nights of respite care for 62 disabled youngsters would save around £45,000 although the budget papers admits "This would be a very unpopular reduction to service delivery".

There could also be changes to refuse collection from tenemental properties across the council area while cuts to grants to elderly services would bring in another £25,000. The authority has also said it could seek additional cuts and savings beyond those identified, with a spokesman stating: "The council faces significant financial challenges in the coming years with savings of around £17m required by 2016/17. This means it will need to continue to identify new ways of reducing the amount it spends. Any savings taken this year above the £189,000 estimate will help to reduce budget cuts in future years."

Residents have been asked for their views on the proposals ahead of a decision in early February.

Chief Executive, Joyce White, said: "We predicted that a number of funding pressures were going to result in a budget gap for the council to manage in 2014/15, so our staff have worked tirelessly this year to identify back-office savings that can help protect frontline work. There are still tough choices to be made though and this consultation process is designed to ask residents not only what options they dislike, but crucially, what they would be prepared to support."

Council leader Martin Rooney said: "We haven't agreed anything yet and that makes this a really powerful consultation. Residents can put forward their case on the issues that really matter to them before any decisions are made, and also suggest savings options of their own for implementation over the next few years."

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