Argyll and Bute job and service cuts: proposals go public at last

Argyll and Bute Council is looking to bridge a budget gap of up to �26 million over the next four years.
Argyll and Bute Council is looking to bridge a budget gap of up to �26 million over the next four years.

The equivalent of more than four hundred jobs could go at Argyll and Bute Council in the course of the next three years - with many front-line services under threat of being cut or axed altogether.

A long-awaited list of proposed service cuts was finally published on Friday morning as part of the council’s ‘Service Choices’ process, as the authority aims to close a budget gap of up to £26 million over the next three years.

The proposals will be considered at a special meeting of the council’s powerful policy and resources committee on October 8, with senior council officers recommending that all the proposed cuts should then go out to public consultation.

Many of the proposals will affect the area’s schools; although teaching staff are exempt, the proposals include:

* Getting rid of 72 ‘additional support needs’ assistants

* Axeing all secondary school librarians - including one at Rothesay Academy

* Cutting the number of clerical assistants in both primary and secondary schools by 20 per cent

* Abolishing the area’s four ‘attendance officer’ posts - including one at Rothesay Joint Campus.

Rothesay would also be badly hit by a proposal to reduce all bedding displays and rose and shrub gardens with areas of grass - in a town which, only last month, won the top prize in the annual Beautiful Scotland awards scheme.

Other proposals include slashing the opening hours at Rothesay’s ‘customer service point’ at Eaglesham House to just 17.5 a week, removing the council’s direct funding of advice agencies, and closing 43 public toilets.

The full list of proposed savings can be found (in a PDF file) by clicking here.

A spokesperson for the council said: “We would like to be able to do everything that our communities want their council to do; reduced funding means that just is not possible. Our predicted funding gap means we have to make up to £9 million savings in each of the next two years, with more savings in future. The council has no choice but to make choices about what we do and how we do it.

“These will not be easy decisions to make. We want to work with our communities, trade unions and our employees in making the right choices for Argyll and Bute. Trade union representatives have been and will continue to have the opportunity to be involved in reaching the right decisions as we progress through these challenging times.

“Our focus is on reducing impact as far as possible on communities and employees, while at the same time investing for future prosperity by attracting more people and jobs to the area.

“The council agreed to offer voluntary redundancy in order to create opportunities for those employees whose jobs may be at risk; and we will be inviting our communities, and employees, to give feedback on savings options via public consultation from the end of October.

“At the same time we are developing ways in which to transform how we work, to make efficiencies, grow income and so reduce the need for future savings.

“Delivering services to remote communities and our 23 inhabited islands comes at a cost. It’s in everyone’s interest to work together in ensuring the best use of the resources we have.”