Argyll and Bute Council Budget: Councillor’s warning ahead of D-Day

Argyll and Bute Council's deputy leader, Councillor Ellen Morton, pictured on a visit to Rothesay in February 2014.
Argyll and Bute Council's deputy leader, Councillor Ellen Morton, pictured on a visit to Rothesay in February 2014.

Cuts to management services mean a huge leap into the unknown for Argyll and Bute Council, a senior councillor has warned.

Councillor Ellen Morton (Lib Dems) was speaking during discussions on the council’s spending plans for the next financial year at a meeting of the authority’s policy and resources committee last week.

Proposals have been made to streamline managerial roles in some council departments, including biodiversity, economic growth, and marine and coastal development.

The budget was set to be fully discussed and finalised for the 2019/20 financial year when the full council meets today (Thursday).

Councillor Morton said: “In terms of the public perception of the council and our own perception about reducing management costs, it is a very easy thing for people to say.

“It is an option we are looking at, but a good manager is worth his or her weight in gold, as without managers, staff do not have an organisational plan to work to.

“We have an opportunity to review how best to run services – whether that is with fewer people or doing things differently.

“So it is totally understandable, but it carries risks that we are not familiar with, and it is important to flag that up.”

The results of the council’s recent feedback from the public during a consultation on the budget was also discussed at the meeting.

Responses to the survey on potential sources of income for the council included the running of a lottery, the closure of small primary schools, and making use of volunteering where possible.

Speaking about the survey responses, Councillor Robin Currie (Lib Dems) called for the discussions to continue. He said: “Consultations are all very well, but even better if there is some sort of vehicle to carry on the conversation.

“If there is not, then it is all forgotten about. What happens next?

“I don’t have the answer but it would be good to keep talking to people.”

Council leader Aileen Morton (Lib Dems) responded: “It is worth bearing in mind that the consultation is about people’s views, but we do go round and ask people for their views as well.”

Jane Fowler, the council’s head of improvement and human resources, said: “There is always useful information to be gathered from asking communities for their views on things.

“Young people, for example, will have a view of the council as a potential future employer.

“Now the objective is to grow the economy and population for Argyll and Bute.

“Keeping young people in the area is a real priority for us and one role they seek for the council is as a future employer.”

Another suggestion received as part of the survey was to sell unused council buildings, but Councillor Ellen Morton (Lib Dems) said: “Helensburgh and Lomond has already sold every building that was surplus to requirements since it moved into the Civic Centre.

“There is only one building remaining, which is being worked on.

“Building standards have a very good reputation for offering services.”