Coun­cil will con­tinue to face tough choices

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket -

I doubt there is a sin­gle Re­former reader out there who has not been touched in some way by the re­ces­sion and aus­ter­ity.

Some will have lost their jobs. Oth­ers will be fac­ing the loss of tax cred­its, which were brought in to help work­ing fam­i­lies by Labour but are now be­ing whit­tled away by the Tories. Even the lucky ones who are in rea­son­ably well­paid work will be wor­ried about keep­ing up with the ris­ing cost of liv­ing.

In short, too many peo­ple are en­gaged in a day-to-day bat­tle to make ends meet and to bal­ance their bud­gets. The same is true for those of us who are work­ing to keep es­sen­tial ser­vices go­ing.

Your coun­cil has been en­gaged in this bat­tle for years and we’ve al­ready found more than £90 mil­lion in sav­ings and ef­fi­cien­cies. We don’t know yet what our grant is go­ing to be from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment for next year but we are pro­ject­ing that we’ll need to find as much as £36m more.

The gov­ern­ment grant makes up 84 per cent of our in­come and the other 16 per cent comes from the coun­cil tax, which has been frozen for eight years, so we know that the trend of de­clin­ing re­sources is likely to con­tinue for some time.

We will con­tinue to lobby the gov­ern­ment to prop­erly fund lo­cal author­i­ties to let us main­tain and im­prove key ser­vices in South La­nark­shire: our schools, our hous­ing, our roads, our care homes, our sports cen­tres, our li­braries.

It is right to op­pose these cuts to our in­come but we can’t just com­plain. You elect your coun­cil­lors to take de­ci­sions, how­ever tough they may be, and that is what we must do too.

As I’ve said, we’ve had to make many tough de­ci­sions al­ready. While we’ve worked hard to pro­tect ser­vices for the vul­ner­a­ble, es­pe­cially the old and the young, un­for­tu­nately very few ar­eas have es­caped un­scathed.

Coun­cil of­fi­cers are cur­rently fi­nal­is­ing pro­pos­als for the bud­get for 2016/17 and these will be put be­fore coun­cil­lors for con­sid­er­a­tion in the next cou­ple of months. Ev­ery coun­cil­lor will be given full de­tails, mak­ing it clear which ser­vices of­fi­cers be­lieve can be pro­tected and those which may need to change. We will then have to de­cide which pro­pos­als are ac­cept­able and which are not.

Ev­ery coun­cil­lor can make coun­ter­pro­pos­als, so long as they are prop­erly costed. In other words, ev­ery pound we take out of the pro­posed sav­ings by re­ject­ing a cut will have to be off­set by find­ing another ef­fi­ciency which will save at least as much.

I hate these cuts. I’ve fought for the rights of or­di­nary peo­ple all my life and I came into lo­cal pol­i­tics 20 years ago to help pro­vide ser­vices, not cut them.

But the coun­cil can only spend the money it has and when that amount is be­ing cut by forces out­side of our con­trol some­one has to make the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions. The pri­or­ity must be to do that while putting the em­pha­sis on pro­tect­ing those who are least able to help them­selves.

You have my word that the ad­min­is­tra­tion I lead will keep do­ing that.

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