ALMOST 40 jobs are set to be axed by Inverclyde Council to plug a £2m funding gap over the next year - with an additional £16m worth of cuts still to come.

Local authority officials have published a list of proposed savings, service reductions and increases in charges as part of the budget-setting process ahead of a crunch vote next Thursday.

Among the planned cutbacks are 38 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, an end to the free brown bin garden waste collection in favour of a paid-for service and a £1 a day fee for school breakfast clubs for children who do not receive free school meals.

There is also a proposal to charge for parking in council car parks that are currently free and another to close the Port Glasgow customer service desk at Princes Street House.

Cuts to school cleaning, council events, museum opening hours and the Inverclyde Leisure management fee are also on the hitlist.

School staff will be the hardest hit in the jobs cull, with around 14 FTE posts, including some teachers, set to go.

A total of 11 cleaners will also be laid off throughout the education estate by reducing the cleaning of 'non-hygiene areas' to one day a week.

The council has ruled out any compulsory job losses, with the 38 posts to be shed via a mixture of voluntary redundancy, eliminating positions currently vacant and releasing temporary workers.

The proposals have been drawn up by officials in partnership with councillors on the cross-party budget group.

Council leader Stephen McCabe said: "These are cuts we don't want to make but we're being forced to make them because of the impact of the Scottish Government settlement on local government and in Inverclyde in particular.

"Yes, they have given councils more money but they've ring-fenced the extra money for new policy initiatives and, as a result, the money available to existing services is cut. "We have no option but to cut services."

Currently, once all the deductions are taken off, including additional government cash for ring-fenced projects, better than expected tax returns and the recently approved 4.79 per cent council tax rise, the local authority has a funding shortfall of just over £1.8m for the next financial year - 2019/20 - as a result of a 2.6 per cent reduction in the grant from Holyrood.

But officials have warned that there is no end in sight for seemingly constant budget cuts, with a projected funding gap of around £5.3m in each of the next three years - nearly £16m in total - up to 2022/23.

Chief financial officer Alan Puckrin said: "It can be seen that the council faces considerable financial challenges over the medium term unless there is a significant improvement in the level of grant funding and increased flexibility in the level of council tax which can be levied."

The savings proposals for 2019/20 are for the council's revenue budget, which deals with day-to-day running costs.

Cllr McCabe said: "These are the 'easy savings', so to speak, and they are difficult but the savings we will have to make in the next few years are going to be very difficult.

"If the Scottish Government continues in this approach to funding local government, we will have to continue to make savings, increase charges and council tax, reduce services and eliminate jobs year after year after year."

Officials are also having to reduce capital spending - covering one-off investments - although there are several projects planned totalling £3.6m, paid for from the local authority's rainy day fund - its free reserves.

This includes £200,000 to revamp Grieve Road Community Centre, £100k for the refurbishment of Wemyss Bay Community Centre, £150k worth of upgrades to Port Glasgow Pool and £15,000 to fund another extension to the swimming season at Gourock Outdoor Pool.

As part of the deal struck between the Labour administration and the SNP group to raise council tax by the full 4.79 per cent, free school meals will be expanded to all primary four children, which is expected to cost £73,000 next year.

Mr McCabe said: "The council is still spending a significant amount of money providing quality services. "There's also a significant capital programme and there's a lot of positives in there but it's hard to be upbeat when you're cutting posts and potentially making people redundant, albeit voluntary, and you're having to put up the council tax, which is not a popular thing to do.

"There's nothing much I want to celebrate, it's a difficult budget and we're facing more difficult budgets in the years ahead."

Councillors will meet to set the budget on Thursday at 4pm.