Time to learn from bud­get mis­takes

Ad­min­is­tra­tion play get out of jail card

Ayrshire Post - - Bob Shields -

There’s a won­der­ful, if maybe apoc­ryphal, story of a Fleet Street car­toon­ist who died very sud­denly – right in the mid­dle of a pop­u­lar, long run­ning story line.

His fi­nal car­toon in the Satur­day edi­tion had Sher­iff Two- Gun Tex tied to a rail­way line by pesky in­juns

. . . with the Santa Fe ex­press train thun­der­ing to­wards him.

By Sun­day, a new car­toon­ist had been hired – with in­struc­tions to con­tinue the car­toon’s plot . . . and have it ready for Mon­day’s pa­per!

The chal­lenge sparked huge in­ter­est amongst the news­pa­per’s writ­ers and edi­tors and by Sun­day night, their lo­cal pub haunt was awash with all kinds of ver­sions of how Two- Gun Tex was go­ing to es­cape from his un­for­tu­nate predica­ment.

When the first edi­tion fi­nally ar­rived, every­one rushed to read the car­toon sec­tion.

What they found was a draw­ing of Two- Gun Tex swing­ing his leg over the sad­dle of his trusty black steed.

And un­der­neath was the cap­tion “With one bound . . . our hero was free!”

The car­toon­ist’s re­source­ful­ness be­came part of Fleet Street leg­end – and the phrase “With one bound

. . .” is firmly fixed in the jour­nal­ist’s lex­i­con when de­scrib­ing an as­ton­ish­ing es­cape from a seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble sit­u­a­tion.

Which brings me rather nicely to last week’s South Ayr­shire Coun­cil bud­get meet­ing.

Where . . . with one bound . . . coun­cil leader Dou­glas Camp­bell was free!

I’m not sure I can buy into his spirit of Get­tys­burg quotes about a bud­get “by our peo­ple, for our peo­ple”.

Mr Camp­bell is more than a tall hat and a long beard short of be­ing an Abra­ham Lin­coln.

But Lin­coln also said that the “ob­ject of gov­ern­ment is to do for a com­mu­nity of peo­ple what the need to have done”.

And to be fair to our SNP/ Labour coali­tion – do­ing what was needed to be done is ex­actly what this bud­get de­liv­ered.

As the Ayr­shire Post cor­rectly head­lined last week, it was “far from the blood­bath, ei­ther pre­dicted or feared”.

And for that at least, we must be grate­ful.

Coun­cil­lor Camp­bell and his team have used the god­send of a late cash wind­fall, some price in­creases - and a few cuts - as pru­dently as we could have hoped for.

This bud­get is hardly a show­stop­per – but they’ve turned what ap­peared to be a recipe for dis­as­ter into some­thing that’s edi­ble . . and cred­i­ble.

Yes, the rul­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion played a clever ‘ get out of jail card’, – but the Nats in con­trol shouldn’t for­get - or even be for­given – for get­ting into the Cas­tle Greyskull dun­geon in the first place.

Where is the sense in freez­ing coun­cil tax for al­most a decade – then whack­ing on an in­crease of 3 per cent to help sal­vage the ser­vices that took the big­gest ham­mer­ing?

This was not a bud­get of dooms­day sce­nar­ios that were cal­cu­lat­ingly leaked – just to make the fi­nal harsh de­ci­sions look palat­able.

But hey . . . it wasn’t that far away ei­ther.

When you let the pen push­ers and bean coun­ters run amok with cash sav­ing ideas – and don’t keep a lid on the in­evitable guff they come up with – you end up with a lu­di­crous cull of lol­lipop ladies and the im­prob­a­ble clo­sure of pub­lic lavvies.

This led to the al­most laugh­able “hon­est, these are not our ideas” de­nials from red faced SNP and Labour coun­cil­lors.

That can’t be al­lowed to hap­pen again.

We knew the first year of the Nat/ Lab al­liance would be a learn­ing curve.

We’ve seen the curve . . . now let’s see some ex­am­ples that they’ve ac­tu­ally learned some­thing!

This bud­get is hardly a show­stop­per – but it turned into some­thing edi­ble and cred­i­ble

Dou­glas Camp­bell The bud­get has been shaped by the peo­ple for the peo­ple

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