Argyll and Bute budget proposals put on hold

Argyll and Bute Council has been given until February 9 to decide whether to accept the Scottish Government's finance offer to local authorities.

Argyll and Bute Council has been given until February 9 to decide whether to accept the Scottish Government's finance offer to local authorities.

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Budget savings proposals from the coalition in charge of Argyll and Bute Council will not now be published for a further week.

The ruling administration of independent, Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors had been expected to make its spending plans public on Friday ahead of a meeting of the council’s powerful policy and resources committee.

But that meeting - and the budget proposals - have been put on hold after what council leader Dick Walsh called an “extremely disappointing” announcement by the Scottish Government this week on the issue of local government finance.

Local authorities across Scotland were given details on Wednesday of the ways in which they would lose out if any of them decided to raise the council tax.

All Scotland’s 32 councils have been given an extended deadline of February 9 to decide whether to accept the Scottish Government’s finance offer.

As a result, Argyll and Bute’s policy and resources committee will now meet on the same day as the full council gathers to vote on its budget plans - Thursday, February 11 - meaning that the ruling coalition’s proposals for which council services should be scrapped, which should be cut back and which should escape the axe are not now likely to be published before February 4 at the earliest.

Councillor Walsh said: “This last minute announcement and the questions it raises about what it means for our funding allocation are extremely disappointing.

“We are focused steadfastly on the fact that savings impact on people’s jobs and people’s services.

“We know that like all local authorities we must change what we do to meet a significant funding gap. This council, like all local authorities, must make decisions we would rather not have to make in order to balance our budget.

“We cannot do everything our communities want us to do. We would love to, but we can’t. We must deal with reality.

“Our savings target is challenging. In meeting it we will take every opportunity to protect the services our communities value and the jobs our employees depend upon.

“We are therefore seeking clarity from the Scottish Government on what this means for our funding and so whether we will have a greater or reduced savings target to deliver.”

Argyll and Bute Council’s policy and resources committee will now meet immediately before the full council on February 11.

Councillor Walsh said: “It is extremely disappointing that this meeting has to be re-scheduled in light of this uncertainty, however this is the only responsible course of action.

“We must focus on reaching the best decisions possible for our communities and our employees. To do that we need facts, which we will seek as a matter of urgency.”