PROPOSALS outlined in the council's budget consultation include increasing charges for school meals and leisure services, stopping funding to local halls and cutting support for library services.

They've been suggested as possible ways of generating additional income and reducing expenditure in order to try to close an £11.56 million budget gap.

The proposals could have serious implications for Clackmannan Town Hall, Coalsnaughton Village Hall, Devonvale Hall, Sauchie Hall and the Ben Cleuch Centre.

There's also suggestions to review primary school class sizes, reduce winter services such as the gritting of pavements during freezing or snowy weather, and cuts to levels of street cleaning.

Councillor Ellen Forson, leader of Clackmannanshire Council, has stressed no decisions have been made and none will be taken by councillors until after the engagement exercise is complete.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Council leader Ellen Forson is urging Clackmannanshire residents to take part in the budget consultation exercise.Council leader Ellen Forson is urging Clackmannanshire residents to take part in the budget consultation exercise. (Image: Contributed)

Understandably, some of the proposals have caused concern in some communities, and Cllr Forson is urging people to make their voices heard before councillors meet to make difficult financial decisions.

She said: “Making your voice heard only takes a few minutes and, as previous council budgets have shown, it really does make a difference.

“It’s more important than ever that as many people as possible take part this year and tell us where they think the council’s limited resources should be focused.

"Although we’ve already made significant savings over a number of years to ensure we meet our legal obligation to balance our budget, we still face a real shortfall between our funding and the cost of the services we deliver."

Included in the budget proposals are reviews of customer services and libraries, and leisure services, with both having implications for Ben Cleuch Centre in Tillicoultry and Sauchie Hall.

Under the review of customer services and libraries, the council says the aim is to better respond to "changing citizen needs and lifestyles" with investment in greater digital services, while reducing the number of community access points (CAPs) and libraries.

The council currently runs five libraries and CAPs, and the suggestion is the CAPs and libraries at Ben Cleuch and Sauchie Hall close in October this year, with the buildings being made available for community asset transfer.

Face to face customer services would be maintained at the council headquarters, with the CAP service at the Speirs Centre (Alloa Rent Office) being centralised at Kilncraigs when reception re-opens.

The library service would remain open at the Speirs Centre, but opening hours would reduce.

The number of customer service advisers in the council’s contact centre would be reduced gradually through vacancies not being filled.

The budget proposals also include a review of leisure services, currently delivered at Alloa, Lornshill and Alva academies (out of school hours), and at local halls and centres such as Alloa Town Hall and Sauchie Hall.

It's suggested that service delivery should be focused primarily on Alloa Town Hall and the academies, with leisure services at Sauchie Hall and the Ben Cleuch Centre ending in October, and all leisure attendants being removed from these facilities.

The Council is also looking to stop providing annual funding to Clackmannan Town Hall, Coalsnaughton Village Hall and Devonvale Hall to support community activities, and points out that a number of other community halls in Clackmannanshire successfully operate without council funding, including Tullibody Civic Centre, Dollar Hive and Cochrane Hall in Alva.

Further proposals include increasing the cost of a school meal by 25p to £2.45, and increasing charges across all sport and leisure services by 10 per cent.

Various savings are also being looked at within education services, including a review of class sizes. The council says it currently has the highest teacher to pupil ratio in Scotland, and that this has had a positive impact on attainment and closing the gap for many young people. However, rolls are falling in primary schools with 145 fewer P1 pupils than P7 pupils, and schools will become increasingly overstaffed if current teacher numbers are maintained. A reduction in teaching staff would result in increased class sizes in some schools, but the council says it would look at protecting those in the most deprived areas.

People in Clackmannanshire have until Sunday, February 18, to take part in the budget engagement survey. Details can be found here.