Council budget approved despite dissenting Bute voices

FEARS over local job cuts led to two of Bute’s councillors refusing to support Argyll and Bute Council’s spending plans for the next three years - but the authority’s budget proposals were still approved by an overwhelming majority on Thursday.

SNP councillors Robert Macintyre and Isobel Strong were two of only three dissenting voices in the council chamber in Lochgilphead as leader Dick Walsh’s proposals for investment of £30 million on education and £21 million on roads received backing from all the authority’s political groupings - more than £20 million more than had originally been proposed.

Cllr Macintyre’s fears stemmed from a proposal to have two Bute supervisors in the authority’s ‘Streetscene’ department, which deals with roads and environmental services, apply for one position, with the unsuccessful candidate being redeployed to an alternative local post.

Setting out what he said was a “budget for growth”, Cllr Walsh said: “This budget puts significant additional capital into Argyll and Bute - creating jobs, improving our infrastructure and improving lives across the region.”

The revised spending plans, as well as being approved by the members of the council’s ruling administration of independents, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, were also backed by all the other members of the SNP group who were present, as well as the three Argyll First opposition independents and Gordon Chalmers of the Argyll and Bute Independent Councillors grouping.

ABIC group leader Cllr George Freeman was the only other councillor who did not support a motion to approve the spending plans put forward by Cllr Walsh - who said he was “shocked and disappointed” that the budget had not received unanimous support.

Cllr Macintyre told the meeting: “I would have no difficulty supporting this budget, but for one thing. I am an Argyll and Bute councillor, but I am first and foremost a councillor for Bute, and nothing I have heard today will convince me that jobs on Bute are not under threat.

“The Streetscene issue is still there and I can’t support the budget for that reason.”

Speaking after the meeting closed, Cllr Walsh told The Buteman: “I’m not criticising Cllr Macintyre as a local councillor, and I can fully understand him being that parochial. What I will say is that I think he was misunderstanding the savings option.

“The quality of work in Rothesay will not change as a result of this move.”