Talking directly on the strategy for the budget the council administration put to the full council at yesterday’s meeting, new Council Leader, James Robb explains that this is less about taking the maximum pain upfront this year but about working to effect a smoothing process.
This does involve, as he has publicly said, making additional savings this year in order to make more manageable the higher savings requirements of future years.
The financial plan put forward covers the full term of this Council and will leave a balanced budget position for the first three years of the next Council.
Council Leader Robb says: ‘The choice yesterday was simple:
- a budget months in development, subject to weeks of scrutiny and consultation and based on an independent financial model which has been public since October
- or a last minute alternative budget based on a still secret financial model developed by a politician.
‘Not a difficult choice for those who have the long term interests of Argyll & Bute at heart.’
As we have already said, the decision to supply the full budget detail to all councillors three weeks in advance of the budget meeting was novel in the experience of Argyll and Bute.
This action offered the opposition a choice of constructive engagement in bringing about an agreed budget in the best interests of Argyll and Bute - or a continuation of the habits of lifetimes of the political Punch and Judy show.
Yesterday former council leader, Councillor Dick Walsh, offered, simultaneously, a bit of both – but the mismarriage neutered potential interest in some of his proposals; and his traditional practice of last minute revelations meant that fellow councilors had no detail to test their validity. This is a pity.
The administration’s early release of its formal budget proposals established respect for democracy, collective engagement and for good practice in the management of council business; and it was politically courageous.
Those are qualities needed in Argyll and Bute; and their presence is a hopeful augury.