Budget to be discussed by full council

ARGYLL and Bute Council’s draft budget plans for 2012-13 to 2013-14 will be considered at a meeting of the full council on February 16.

The draft budget for the next two years was due to be discussed at a meeting of the council’s Executive on Thursday.

But council leader Dick Walsh moved at the Executive meeting that the authority’s spending proposals be referred to the full council in a fortnight’s time.

Bute councillor Robert Macintyre, the SNP opposition group leader, asked whether questions on the budget would be accepted on Thursday, and was told they would not.

His Bute SNP colleague, Cllr Isobel Strong, asked why, if the agenda stated the budget was to be considered by the Executive, questions were not being allowed.

Cllr Walsh said “parochial issues”, which he understood some members were intent on raising, would not be discussed, and that only questions on strategic issues would be accepted.

Cllr Macintyre said afterwards: “The leader of the council, Dick Walsh, and his deputy Ellen Morton, have been touring the area for months asking local people what they wanted the council’s spending priorities to be.

“Yet, they were not willing to listen to any questions about budget issues that constituents have raised with us.

“In all the consultations, we are sure no one told them that we needed more spin doctors , but incredibly that is the only new spending commitment they have made.

“The council is now proposing to spend tens of thousands on staff to try and make them look better in the press. That is an outrage.”

“The leaders of the opposition have asked for a meeting with Mr Walsh to raise concerns.”

Cllr Walsh said: “Given the ongoing challenging financial situation which all local authorities are facing, Argyll and Bute decided last year to adopt a strategic, three-year approach to setting our budget.

“The next financial year represents the second year of this approach, and I am confident that the way forward we are proposing will put us in the best possible position to meet the challenges we will undoubtedly face.

“However, getting the budget right is obviously the most critical task which we as councillors face, as it imparts on every single element of our business.

“As has happened in previous years, therefore, we agreed to pass the papers straight to the full council on February 16 so that every member has the chance to discuss and debate the issue.”