“We’re making vital and significant investment in Argyll and Bute in the face of challenge – we want to see Argyll and Bute thrive.”
That was the view of Argyll and Bute Council Leader, Councillor Aileen Morton, as she confirmed a cash boost of almost £15 million for roads, along with investment in social care and customer services, for the 2018/19 budget unanimously agreed last week.
The budget also rejected the unpopular plan to close public toilets.
Council tax will increase by three per cent, with Band D up from £1,213 to £1,249.
To ensure a balanced budget 24 savings options across a range of services were made including increases to fees and charges.
Councillors also agreed decisions that will bridge its £5m funding gap in 2018/19 as well as building in protection for vital services against funding cuts in future years.
However, in the big good new story from this year’s budget, the council will invest an additional £8.3m in the road network over the next two years, bringing total investment to almost £15m, and a further £500,000 in footpaths.
This follows calls across the region to make improvements to the local road infrastructure, including tackling the growing issue of potholes.
The council will also spend £767,000 on the ICT system which enables the public to use council services on which they depend. While it was also agreed to increase funding for social care services by £1.5m.
“We need to come together to identify a growth deal that meets the aspirations of local communities and businesses and contributes to the council’s strategic aims,” said Cllr Morton.
“I look forward to working with fellow councillors, partner agencies, our communities and local businesses to make this a reality in 2018.
“We want to do our best for the communities we represent; we want to create a bright future; we want to see Argyll and Bute shine.”
Councillor Gary Mulvaney, depute leader of the council, added: “As well as investing in the future, we’re clear that we need to reshape what we do. This means looking very closely at every aspect of our business – in a clear, focused and new way.
“An example of this is the One Council Property initiative agreed last week. We will be pro-actively managing our 1,700 buildings and parcels of land, which will be better for the council and for local communities.
“This is strategic, corporate and consistent – the kind of efficient and sensible approach our communities want to see us taking. This budget is the responsible choice for Argyll and Bute.”
The council rejected eight out of 32 savings options put forward by officers, based on budget consultation feedback. These included maintaining a road safety team to train children and young people in keeping road-safe. While, five savings options were only taken in part. And parking charges will be matched to local circumstances rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Public toilets will remain open, while alternatives for reducing their cost will be sought this year. Roads and amenity services will combine, with two fixed-term posts created to improve customer care. While community transport grants will continue to be available.
Funding and additional support for advice services will continue in 2018/19, with a full review to be reported to councillors in May.
The council will also continue to prioritise economic growth, with the task of securing a Rural Growth Deal for the area confirmed as ‘an absolute target’.