Bus decision “hardest in 20 years with SLC”
Last week’s decision to restrict free school bus travel to pupils who live three miles from school was one of the hardest in my 20 years with South Lanarkshire Council.
Unfortunately, it’s one of many hard decisions forced on councillors, given the cut in our Scottish Government grant when demand on our services is growing.
These cuts are horrible and nobody likes them. I came into politics to provide services for local people, not cut them.
But the Council has saved £90m in recent years, including £17m this year, and there’s up to £36m more to find next year.
We can only spend the money we have and we have to balance the budget, so difficult choices are unavoidable.
I understand why parents who’ll now have to get their kids to school are upset.
And I’ve been in politics long enough to understand why some politicians are taking the chance to score points.
But some have been so opportunistic they give even politics a bad name.
The SNP have lined up to criticise the decision, but none took up our appeal to lobby the Scottish Government to reverse the cut to our grant – or reduce the statutory limit for free school buses to two miles, and fund councils accordingly.
The SNP have also ignored their own councillors’ role in setting the council’s budget
– but that’s probably because they were missing in action, dodging tough decisions as usual.
The 2015/16 budget plans, including school bus changes, were clearly set out since November, and SNP members had repeated chances to oppose the proposal and come up with their own costed alternatives. None did.
One SNP MP, who was a councillor until May, boasted last week about her opposition to the school bus changes.
When challenged, she claimed opposition councillors were never “provided with a full report on the options”.
For the record: every councillor of every party was given full details of the 2015/16 budget proposals, and all were offered the help of finance officers to come up with their own options.
Those who didn’t engage and who are now calling foul are charlatans and hypocrites.
Last week the SNP belatedly suggested we cut IT investment in schools or cut taxis.
The first option would damage pupils’ ability to get ahead in the modern world, while taxis get vulnerable kids with special needs to school so they can get a decent education.
Of course some parents are unhappy a service they previously took for granted is going.
But we’ve had to cut a range of services for many groups, including pensioners,