Op­po­si­tion coun­cil­lors fear changes to an­nual bud­get

The Oban Times - - Front Page - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

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.’

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