South Scotland

Care cash may meet Dumfries and Galloway rubbish collection costs

Rubbish bag
Image caption The home care funds could be used to help balance the refuse collection budget

Cash earmarked for support services for vulnerable people in south west Scotland could be used to help balance a budget for refuse collection.

Dumfries and Galloway Council's commercial group is forecasting a £250,000 underspend on home care.

DG First plans to use the funds to offset deficits in other areas of its business, such as waste disposal.

The social work committee - which commissions the home care service - has called for the return of the surplus.

Under current policy, the department pays DG First a fee of £6.7m at the start of the financial year to provide home care.

Independent councillor Jane Maitland was first to raise concern about any attempts to use any underspend on other parts of DG First's operations.

"I think there is something very strange about this and I asked for an explanation," she said.

"I hope very much that we will come up with a clear anticipation that we will not fund the waste collection overspend through home care."

Labour's Jim Dempster said it was clear the way "in-house" services were commissioned needed to change.

"With childish simplicity - it seems to me - you ask for a service, you then build for that service and you pay the bill accordingly," he said.

"That is what should happen and how we arrive at that situation does not bother me.

"The fact is we need to arrive at it and arrive at it soon to ensure that the public pound is protected, managed better and used to deliver the service it is supposed to."

The chairman of social work, the SNP's Andy Fergusson, has pledged to investigate and report back to the committee, but warned that local authority accounting practices could be hugely complicated.

"I did raise this issue some time ago and found out it is not as simplistic a process as you would expect it to be," he said.

"It is an extremely complex issue but the promise I gave was to get to the bottom of it and get a full report coming back."

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