Re-shaping the council is key says leader

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Safeguarding valued local services as much as possible through a long-term approach is a key element of this year’s council budget, says Argyll and Bute Council leader, Councillor Aileen Morton.

“We need to reshape the council for the future to ensure that we can continue to provide valued local services in the longer term,” she said as the council’s administration develops its budget proposals ahead of the council budget meeting on February 22.

Council officers published their 500-page budget pack on February 8 and the council’s administration is now considering what priorities to take forward.

“Based on the reports from officers, the council is pretty much in a break-even position for 2018/19.

“There is a near £3 million gap in our capital plan, which outlines investment in our vital infrastructure such as roads and IT. This wipes out any surplus in our revenue budget – the money we spend on delivering day to day services,” warned Councillor Morton.

When announcing the Scottish Government’s settlement for local authorities in December, Finance Secretary Derek MacKay pointed out that an additional £77m for essential services could be raised providing authorities increased council tax by the maximum of three per cent.

“Breaking even does require raising council tax by three per cent. That’s the basis on which the Scottish Government predicated its local government settlement. So, in line with the Scottish Government’s suggested approach and, like most councils, I expect we will take forward that proposal,” said Councillor Morton.

“However, the administration is already clear that they cannot support one proposal in the papers to cut £725,000 from health and social care services.

“One of the priorities our Administration agreed was working to support community and individual wellbeing. It is clear that a cut on this scale would damage local services. I would expect that all councillors will want to consider whether it is reasonable to apply that kind of funding cut to local social work services considering how difficult it is to deliver these services across Argyll and Bute.