PUBLIC services in Clackmannanshire will likely revert to the lowest legal level, county tax payers have been warned.

Crushing financial pressures are said to be forcing the hand of council officers and elected members as the deadline for the 2018-19 budget approaches at speed.

As a result, Clackmannanshire Council is to provide the bare minimum as mandated by law, meaning a loss of many services currently bankrolled by the local authority.

Some of the savings are thought to be found from education and social services.

Last Wednesday, civil servants held a consultation session with members of the public at the Bowmar Centre in Alloa.

Attendees had the chance to make representations, but officers made clear that the council will have to cut its offerings to the bone in order to avoid financial collapse.

As previously reported, the council is to set its budget by the end of February with an estimated cumulative funding gap worth around £26million for the next three cycles.

In the next financial year alone, the council is estimated to be £10.3m short, down from a previous figure of £13.1m.

And the future ahead is looking grim too, with council chiefs estimating increasing demand against less and less funding from government.

Officers stressed no political decision has been taken yet, but they are preparing a number of options for councillors to consider in the next six weeks or so.

Stuart Crickmar, head of strategy and customer services, stressed that tough choices will have to be made.

He told the crowd that the past six to seven years have seen ongoing financial pressures for the council, with an ever-winding gap between budgets and expenditure.

The senior manager said this was partly due to the ongoing reduction in the national deficit, as well as a steep rise in costs and demands, especially in health and social care, before adding: “Legally, we must close that gap.”

While some £36m worth of savings have been made since 2011, along with £15m of reserves used, “the harsh reality” is that the two biggest departments of education and social services will inevitably get cut.

Mr Crickmar also added there has been an unprecedented response to the consultation so far, with hundreds of responses received online and nearly 100 people squeezing into the Cochrane Hall in Alva the evening before.

Concerns from residents were raised over the potential withdrawal of music tuition, whilst others were worried school breakfast clubs could disappear if the council stops its subsidy or restricts availability.

During the debate, one resident reminded the chiefs some youngsters may only get proper food at the clubs, which are on before the school day starts.

Another parent argued she would not be able to get to work to earn an income for her family if she cannot drop her child off at school early.

Challenging the officers, one member of the audience asked whether the council has considered the wider impact of the cuts further down the line, before adding: “You are suffocating us by taking these services away.”

Responding, the senior team explained the council is required to carry out equality impact assessments, a two-stage process, before decisions are taken.