A FINANCE chief has voiced a dire warning that 'unsustainable' council budgets could mean cuts to local teacher numbers and vital health and social care services.

With financial pressures already putting the council's operating of village halls and libraries at risk, Cllr Tom Marshall recently warned that people may need to soon 'sweep their own streets'.

Mark Boyd, head of North Ayrshire Council's financial services, said there are 'significant challenges' lying ahead.

He said: "There are issues.

"The scale of reductions in budgets could impact on the financial sustainability of the council. With employee pay increases, pay settlements, inflation and the increasing demand on social care, there are significant challenges."

Mr Boyd said that there may be some ways to help offset the financial pressures, including a 'tourist tax'.

He added: "There may be some further flexibility through the council tax and the transient visitor tax and despite the difficult financial situation in recent years the council has continued to perform well.

"However the ability to continue to respond well will become increasingly difficult in the coming years."

The issue was also discussed at the recent Largs community council meeting.

Councillor Alex Gallagher, of the ruling Labour administration, told the News this week that the financial picture for the area is 'grim'.

He said: "Even if you are cutting essential services, you are still not setting a budget - effectively it could mean cuts to teacher numbers with social care staff under threat.

"It will affect the delivery of council services."

Councillor Marshall warned the public that North Ayrshire Council may even be forced to close complete departments due to budget cuts, while Independent councillor Ian Murdoch said there was around £17.1m of cuts projected for the forthcoming financial year.

Cllr Murdoch added: "It is very clear that the community is going to have to help themselves. People may need to sweep their own streets. That is not scaremongering, it could really happen.

"There is more of a drive to encourage communities to get involved in helping to run things, like Douglas Park.

"From things like the orchard community plan, Douglas Park has to try and find a way to get some money and generate some income.

"I do believe we deserve more but have seen the situation from inside the council, the budget is very tight."

Cllr. Marshall added: "The council's only option may have to remove complete services it currently offers to the public in order to make books balance.

"It means less for communities and along the North Coast area of Largs and Millport, a lot of people are less reliant on council services than other areas of North Ayrshire."