Opposition councillors fear changes to annual budget
TODAY, Thursday, will see Argyll and Bute Council sets its budget for the coming year.
Ahead of the meeting, opposition councillor Michael Breslin said he was concerned the budget papers sent to elected members would not resemble the one delivered by the council leader today.
Mr Breslin, a member of the Reform group on the local authority, said: ‘At the moment, the papers for this meeting indicate a budget surplus of £2.893 million, assuming a three per cent in- crease in council tax. We have no idea, as yet, if the administration intends to produce a budget on the day or indeed if the papers already published are the final version.
‘Will a rabbit be pulled out the hat? The council was heavily criticised by Audit Scotland for the manner in which the council leader produced last year’s budget. He produced it on the day, leaving no time for proper scrutiny.
‘Reform’s key proposal is to use 100 per cent of the three per cent increase in council tax to increase the adult care budget held by the Integrated Joint Board for Health and Social Care.
‘It is under real budgetary pressure to help pay for the care of the elderly people of Argyll and Bute and we feel this is the best way we can use the council tax increase. Our proposals will cost an additional £3.154 million but save an extra £1.209 million.
‘Let’s see if other councillors can support these proposals.’
On behalf of the administration, Aileen Morton said the council was facing a £6.3 million cut in funding from the Scottish Government – a fact MSP Michael Russell disputed in last week’s Oban Times.
Ms Morton said: ‘ Such significant funding cuts are very challenging to deal with but, following difficult decisions made last year, the council is in a better position than many other councils to manage this year’s further swingeing cuts.’
Councillor Dick Walsh, the council leader, said: ‘While funding cuts mean we can no longer deliver every service local people want to see, we are committed to doing the very best we can to meet the needs of our communities.
‘My intent is to protect core services as much as possible and look to provide some assistance to the Health and Social Care Partnership. The partnership needs to stand on its own feet in future but I do recognise it faces the same pressures we do, and caring for the most vulnerable and in need in our communities has always been of the utmost importance to me and my colleagues.’
Councillor Ellen Morton, deputy leader, added: ‘These are difficult times but Argyll and Bute Council continues to focus on local people’s priorities.
‘I am glad we will be providing additional funding to ensure our roads department continues to be the fastest improving in Scotland – improvement only possible because of the funding the council has allocated over and above that from the Scottish Government.’