Reaction to Argyll & Bute Council budget

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Argyll and Bute Council’s leader described the process of protecting services in the 2019/20 budget as “a near impossible task” to the authority.

While, the area’s SNP group has expressed its regret over the cuts to youth and adult learning services which were confirmed as part of the 2019/20 budget last week.

Council leader Aileen Morton (Lib Dem) stated that the continued existence of local councils is threatened by the struggle to make ends meet.

The leader also said that the savings options made were ones that the administration would have preferred not to have taken. She said: “Our approach is always the same – do whatever is possible to protect essential services and protect jobs as far as we can.

“When it is said like that it sounds simple, but in reality it is a near impossible task. The continued existence of local authorities is under threat as they struggle to meet costs.

“We are all aware of the choices in front of us today, and across the country, what is so concerning is that this is not a one-off. This is a pattern of never-ending cuts and the continued existence of local authorities is questionable.

“Local people may find it difficult to understand that we have to face tough choices about services that they depend on, because they hear announcements that councils are getting more money. But it is less money for services that communities want or need.

“People have told us for years that they would prefer to see council tax saving services, but it is difficult to tell them that it is filling the hole made by central government.”

Councillor Sandy Taylor, the SNP’s Argyll and Bute group leader, put forward an amendment to the administration’s budget which would have kept the service at its previous level, along with music tuition, environmental wardens and the council’s road safety unit. However, it received only 10 votes, all from SNP councillors, as the admin budget prevailed with 21 votes.

The motion and amendment did agree on retaining school crossing patrollers, but the SNP group has pledged to continue to look to help the council reduce its costs.

Cllr Taylor said: “All councils are struggling with the continuing cuts in public spending budgets at this time, no less so Argyll and Bute. Although not an easy decision, the group’s budget benefitted from the extra resources from raising the council tax to its maximum level of 4.79 per cent which meant that our budget could maintain these valued services in the face of the proposed cuts.”