Time to learn from budget mistakes
Administration play get out of jail card
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