“The challenges we face are substantial. We need to have the ambition, the determination and the drive to do more than just survive, to do more than just protect the existence of this council and its essential services.
“Setting a responsible budget for Argyll and Bute is about making choices that support people and communities now, and also look after the future of Argyll and Bute – and that’s what we’ve done.”
These were the words of Councillor Aileen Morton, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, following the budget-setting meeting today (21 February).
“Over the past nine years we have had to make £50million in savings, and this year had to deal with a funding gap of nearly £8m. If this pattern of never-ending cuts carries on, then the continued existence of local authorities – to be blunt – is questionable.
“Cuts mean that we have had to make tough decisions about even the most valued council services.
“Today, as much as possible, we have protected vital services, we have listened to the views of local people and we have invested in building a successful future for Argyll and Bute.
“This – in the circumstances – is the best budget for Argyll and Bute. This is the responsible budget for Argyll and Bute.”
Councillor Gary Mulvaney, Depute Leader and Policy Lead for Strategic Finance, set out the council’s approach to making its funding work for Argyll and Bute.
He said: “The scale of the cuts that local government has faced in recent years means that now, when it comes to making savings, we’re looking at our very heart, our very core business.
“We have had to prioritise our statutory duties first and foremost, which inevitably means that those non-statutory, but equally valuable and important services, have to bear the brunt of cuts.
“Funding cuts increase the importance of council tax in making services possible. Cuts mean more and more that public services need public in-put. We have had to increase council tax by the full amount indicated by the Scottish Government.
“With the help of local people, through council tax, we can support essential public services.
“What we are doing is taking prudent decisions which protect services and jobs as much as possible through the best use of finance, resources and technology.
“The priority that underpins everything we do is that of prudential financial management. And we will continue that focus – to do the right thing, take the right action, make the right choices, in, for and with Argyll and Bute.”
Key decisions made include:
• Agreed: an additional £500,000 for winter maintenance, building on the £15m extra invested in the road network last year to keep Argyll and Bute open for business
• Agreed: an additional £2m for the Health and Social Care Partnership
• Agreed: £120,000 to bring the Royal National Mod to Oban in 2023
• Agreed: £23,330 for Kintyre Recycling Limited
• Agreed: £500,000 reduction in council management costs over the next three years
• The increase in council tax will see Band D increase from £1,249 to £1,308.83
• Agreed: savings proposals listed here (http://bit.ly/2DYLTVQ) with the exception of those below
Rejected: proposals to remove school crossing patrollers
Rejected: proposal to close customer service points
Rejected: proposal to reduce grounds and environment services
Rejected: proposal to increase parking charges