Time to stand up to coun­cil bud­get cuts

Rutherglen Reformer - - Working For You -

In a mat­ter of weeks, South La­nark­shire coun­cil­lors will be­gin the dif­fi­cult task of look­ing at the de­tailed bud­get for the year ahead.

In re­cent years, our coun­cil has had to make sav­ings in the re­gion of £90m and next year it looks likely we will have another £36m to find.

To achieve this, Labour coun­cil­lors will once again work closely with coun­cil of­fi­cers to scru­ti­nise ev­ery area of ex­pen­di­ture. No stone will be left un­turned in an ef­fort to set a bal­anced bud­get, right down to the tim­ing of street lights, which were marginally ad­justed in 2013 to make sav­ings.

I am proud that we have man­aged to get through these tough years with no com­pul­sory re­dun­dan­cies and that we have pri­ori­tised in­vest­ing in so­cial hous­ing and new schools whilst also pro­tect­ing vi­tal front line ser­vices for the most vul­ner­a­ble in so­ci­ety. Ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing, and so­cial care are the very pil­lars of the Labour Party and they will al­ways un­der­pin any de­ci­sion I make as a coun­cil­lor rep­re­sent­ing the peo­ple of Ruther­glen South.

But with each pass­ing year, as fund­ing drops and de­mands on ser­vices in­crease, the le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity to bal­ance the books be­comes more and more dif­fi­cult to achieve. We are now in the eighth year of an un­der­funded coun­cil tax freeze and face deeper cuts from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment ev­ery year.

In spite of this, our Scot­tish Na­tion­al­ist col­leagues are on a high. Buoyed by their elec­tion vic­tory in May, ru­mour has it SNP coun­cil­lors are al­ready squab­bling over po­si­tions and siz­ing up the cur­tains in the leader’s of­fice.

Their ar­ro­gance would be amus­ing if the out­come were not so se­ri­ous. They have cyn­i­cally abused the com­fort of op­po­si­tion to take credit for pop­u­lar de­ci­sions while opt­ing out of the dif­fi­cult choices that got us there. They have posed for pho­to­graphs with those af­fected by bud­get sav­ings while never sug­gest­ing an al­ter­na­tive or chal­leng­ing their gov­ern­ment’s cuts to coun­cil fund­ing. These are the tac­tics that give politi­cians a bad name. If they suc­ceed and win the coun­cil in 2017, it is a dis­hon­esty that will be felt at the heart of ev­ery com­mu­nity we rep­re­sent.

With the suc­cess of Jeremy Cor­byn at the week­end, both the Labour Party and the coun­try have turned a cor­ner. A stag­ger­ing 423,000 peo­ple voted in the lead­er­ship elec­tion and the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity had one mes­sage: pol­i­tics must rad­i­cally change. The public are de­mand­ing hon­est, straight talk­ing pol­i­tics that puts peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties be­fore party and ego.

That is why I am call­ing on the SNP to work with us to stand up for lo­cal peo­ple and chal­lenge the fund­ing cri­sis that is af­fect­ing coun­cils across Scot­land. It is time to en­gage with the bud­get process, time to bring for­ward your sug­ges­tions and dis­cuss them openly.

With all of us work­ing to­wards the same goal, we are more likely to reach a bet­ter out­come.

Sav­ings Ruther­glen South coun­cil­lor, Ger­ard Killen

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