Bus de­ci­sion “hard­est in 20 years with SLC”

Rutherglen Reformer - - Memory Lane -

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,

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