Argyll and Bute Council has set a budget that will achieve savings and maintain high levels of investment in key services areas in 2014/15 and 2015/16.
It also freezes council tax for another year
Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Dick Walsh explained: “Our budget planning approach ensures that we deliver key services that work for people now, that we prepare for future financial challenge and that we invest for economic growth.
“We have a flat cash settlement (the same amount of government funding as last year) for 2014/15, and anticipate it for next year. We will therefore use these two years of relative financial stability to identify where we need to make changes to future service delivery and how we can make best use of the resources we have.
“Our budget for these two years succeeds in achieving savings while also maintaining high levels of investment in key service areas.”
In outlining the budget, Councillor Walsh thanked members of the public who had responded to the budget consultation exercise.
“Working in partnership – council, communities, individuals and other key organisations – has never been more important than it is now.
“Our overall challenge in securing a prosperous future for Argyll and Bute is attracting more jobs and more people who contribute to the prosperity of the area. It is people who keep communities thriving and our population is falling.
“Achieving the objectives of the Single Outcome Agreement will help us grow our population. The Single Outcome Agreement, or SOA, depends on key organisations and individuals working together.
“I would like to thank everyone who took the time to give us their views on services and SOA outcomes.
“We have listened to what they told us. Their views have reinforced the budget approach we are proposing for 2014/15 and 2015/16 – to preserve services where possible by seeking 1% savings across all areas of our work in each year, while also investing in our people and opportunities for growth.”
Over the next two years, the council will invest nearly £180m in our Education service, £125m in helping our vulnerable people, £80m on delivering community services as wide ranging as waste, public transport and leisure services, and £80m in supporting and creating growth in our local economy (of which £40m relates to roads and infrastructure) and will be looking at ways to build on this funding.
The council agreed to maintain the Reserve Fund (£11.8 million) in order to establish a strategy for using it to maximum benefit for economic growth and other service areas.
Budget investment includes:
- With tourism a key employment sector for Argyll and Bute, the council will invest £50,000 in the Argyll and Isles Tourism Co-operative every year for the next three years, £50,000 over the next two years in the development of Kilmartin Museum, and in 2014/15, £140,000 in supporting the Commonwealth Submarine Naval Museum and £25,000 in the NVA Scottish Arts Charity.
- Recognising its role as a key employer in the Argyll and Bute economy it will focus on preserving jobs, and ensures the nationally agreed 1% pay rise and the Living Wage hourly rate of £7.65 per hour for the lowest paid employees.
- Given the importance of education, as well as investing in new schools, the council is dedicating an additional £150,000 every year maintaining existing schools.
- With feeling safe highlighted by residents as a key attraction in living here, the council will allocate £607,000 in maintaining street lighting over the next two years and assessing future requirements.
- Although some charges will have to increase broadly in line with inflation, the council will protect the most vulnerable people: there will be no inflationary increases for school meals, meals on wheels, community alarms, Blue Badges or community based care services.
Councillor Walsh touched on last year’s Accounts Commission report which identified a need for action primarily to establish strategic political leadership:
“There is no council more committed to delivering effective local government services than Argyll and Bute Council. We have taken action together to strengthen our political management structure and put an action plan in place that will support on-going improvement. We have moved on.
"What has remained steadfast is our focus on delivering services that benefit our people and communities. This was recognised by Audit Scotland, who identified that frontline services were not affected by the need for change, and it is reflected in the progress we have continued to make.
"We have won awards. We are investing in future service delivery. And we are delivering hundreds of different services every day to people across Argyll and Bute.”
Councillor Walsh stressed the importance of working together in meeting challenges ahead:
“Argyll and Bute Council is ready and committed to doing all that we as a council can do to support the future of Argyll and Bute. Everyone who is part of a community has a role to play in supporting the future of that community – the council, residents, voluntary and third sector groups, local media and trade unions.
"The more we work together to overcome challenges and to highlight to potential new residents and investors the attractions of Argyll and Bute, the more we will achieve. I would encourage everyone to ask him or herself, ‘What can I do’? Let’s work together, now, for the betterment of all.”
- Total revenue budget is £245 million approximately.
- 1% savings across council service areas equates to £1.8 million.
- Council tax remains unchanged – band D costs £1,178 annually, excluding water and any other charges.
- Overall people responding to the survey said that while all services matter, roads and public transport, and education services are of key importance; and that supporting the economy and developing local infrastructure are the SOA outcomes that matter most in attracting people and business to the area, but are also the outcomes in most need of progress. For more information please see the budget communication and consultation report.
- The SOA is the agreement between local agencies and the Scottish Government. The overall objective of growing our population will be supported on the grounds of these key aims:
Our economy is diverse and thriving
We have infrastructure that supports sustainable growth
Education, skills and training maximises opportunities for all
Children and young people have the best possible start
People live active, healthier and independent lives
People live in safer, stronger communities