The Reform Group of three Argyll & Bute Councillors – Michael Breslin, Vivien Dance and Bruce Marshall – has worked up and published its own alternative budget.
This is not just a budget. It’s a new way of operation at the council designed both to reduce core operating costs substantially and engage all councillors much more fully and differently in the business – and the responsibility – of local government.
This is serious and complex of work – full of challenge, risk and controversy- but with much of the risk and challenge offering serious gains in efficiency, focus, calibre of work – and job satisfaction for all concerned.
Not all of it would work – and its authors recognise this – but much of it could and all of it is a potential game changer for the better, capable too of putting Argyll and Bute in the lead in a constructive revision of local government.
Parts of it owe something to aspects of the thinking in the paper produced by Councillor Iain Angus MacDonald in the heady early days of the SNP led coalition administration of 2012, which was famously destroyed by its own party hierarchy for political reasons.
That paper, Ever Increasing Circles, proposed a new way of working for elected members which was gloriously impractical but inspirational in its concept of universal engagement a matter picked up again in this Reform Group proposition.
The willingness to think again about the operation of the council where significant core costs are avoidably incurred – including this in a budget that seeks to lose the £10 million that Finance Secretary John Swinney’s austerities for local government requires Argyll and Bute to cut – but to secure a future where such cuts will no longer be applicable and core services will be protected – is ambitious, exciting and deserves serious attention.
For this reason For Argyll is saying no more about this paper at the moment; but will interrogate and evaluate it thoroughly before writing on it in the very near future
The proposal – costed and with council officers currently putting those costs to the test – is due for discussion at the full Council meeting on 11th February.