Final Tiree Community Council letter to Council on approaches to proposed service cuts

Today, 9th February 2016, is the deadline for all Scottish local authorities to accept or reject the average 3.5% cut to their 2016-17 budgets imposed in the current funding settlement by Finance Secretary, John Swinney.

Some groups of councils are still considering a legal challenge to the rather iron-fisted deal on ‘offer’ [there are draconian financial penalties for any council refusing].

The ‘union’ for local authorities, COSLA, the Convention for [28 of the 32] Scottish Local Authorities, has made it known that, at the behest of some of its members, it is taking advice on potential legal challenge.

The penalties are such that most, if not all, councils are thoight likely to accept – but this has been a brutalist operation which leaves fractured relationships between central and local government. The scar tissue will have its impact in the future.

Whatever its decision today, Argyll & Bute Council’s budget meetings take place this Thursday, 11th February.

Following the vigour of its thinking in an earlier – engaged and challenging – letter to the council in January, Tiree Community Council yesterday sent a second letter – to each elected member, with a last plea for objective intelligence to be in the driving seat of the decisions to be taken..

Our commentary on the letter and on the issues it raises follows the text of the letter itself.

Tiree’s Community Council’s pre-decision letter

Dear Councillor,

Argyll & Bute Council, Service Choices Consultation.

Tiree Community Council are deeply disappointed to note that since our previous correspondence, sent to all Argyll & Bute Councillors on the 18th January 2016, only one elected member, Councillor Breslin, has taken the trouble to address any of our concerns. It is of course impossible for us to know whether this is due to a lack of interest among elected members, or simply an inability to provide any substantive response to our deep concerns around the course that you presumably propose taking with the current budget proposals.

In a final effort to engender some focus, prior to the important decisions that you will be required to consider this Thursday, may we ask you to set aside any political self-interest, and seriously consider what you can do on Thursday as an elected Member to work with the people of Argyll & Bute, rather than risking the complete alienation of the voting public, as the current administration proposals are set upon doing.

In particular;

  1. Will you vote to overturn the disproportionately damaging low level service and job cuts earmarked for Tiree and Coll? For example, Customer Service Point, (half a job), Librarian post, (full job), closure of our only public toilet, (25,000 visitors p.a. with nowhere to go)!
  2. Will you take on board the advice of the Accounts Commission, in particular, “doing things differently, especially around A&BC options for service redesign”, rather than the current low level cuts to individual service budgets, and reducing and/or stopping services altogether?
  3. Will you at least consider aligning yourself with the only credible alternative budget proposed to date by the A&B Reform Group? If you really cannot find it in yourself/s to concede that this alternative is a far less damaging budget than the current, quite clearly Officer led administration budget, then can you at the very least accept that the Reform Group budget proposes a path that accords with the desire of the public to see a far more progressive, strategic, and forward thinking Council?
  4. Will you please, in advance of Thursday’s Council meeting, provide Tiree Community Council with your alternative thoughts, proposals, or formal motions/amendments that you intend to table on the 11th February? In short, what do you as an elected Councillor; intend to do to align yourself with the voice of the Argyll public, failing which there is little more that we can do to promote your position!

For Tiree Community Councils part, we will do everything within our power to assist in promoting widely your thoughts, views, and proposals for overcoming the damage that the current proposals will undoubtedly bring.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. John Holliday, Convenor.

Public lavatories

The public lavatory issue applies acfoss Argyll. The Tiree case is particularly succinct – and wittily put.

The degree of civilisation of a culture can arguably be measured by the fact and calibre of its provision of public lavatories – many of which contribute to the positive or negative likelihood of the return of visitors.

There was – and possibly still is – a legendary one in the Car Park at Kyle of Loch Alsh, just above the ferry slip and in the approaches to the Skye Bridge .

Managed by a mature male batchelor who was a lifelong monarchist, the Ladies’ chamber was a shrine to the current Queen, with scrapbooks, newspaper cuttings, photographs and memorabilia alongside flowers fresh daily to match the fresh atmosphere in a pristine place. [You could have a hot shower there too.] Whether the Gentlemen’s chamber – on the opposite side of the ticket booth giving onto the street – was a shrine to Prince Philip remains one of the male mysteries to which we have no access.

One thing is unarguable -the facilities the council plans to cut are less public conveniences than public imperatives. Without them, Argyll’s support for the free ranging family visitors it hopes to attract and retain will not be adequate to bring them back.

The Reform Group proposal

The letter from Tiree’s Community Council pays tribute to the single-handed respect for their position from Dunoon Councillor, Michael Breslin, whose Reform Group’s proposal they describe – with reason –  as ‘the only credible alternative budget proposed to date’; and which they invite councillors to commit to giving serious consideration.

While the Reform Group’s paper is a budget proposal, it is, in fact, a great deal more than that. It is a proposal for a very different and infinitely more collegiate way of running – and leading – a council.

This address to fundamental management issues – and to a philosophy for ‘management’ – also reduces core costs at a level that offers protection to key jobs and services.

The response to the proposal from Tiree is a powerful indicator of the ability of these ideas to engage, to offer hope of better and to attract attention from the electorate.

For Argyll has been slowed by injury – and consequent reshuffling of workloads – from, as yet, giving the necessary close analysis to what is a lively, challenging and promising proposal.

We intend, however, to complete and publish this for tomorrow morning.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • So Newsie, any word yet on how your Swine Flu pandemic is progressing?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 18

    Simon February 9, 2016 8:15 pm Reply
  • I take it Simon you are simply posting on here to slag off the editor and belittle the efforts of Tiree’s community to try and make themselves heard both by A&B and the Edinburgh govnt…… I can’t see any other reason to your post…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 5

    Karl Hughes February 9, 2016 8:31 pm Reply
    • With all CC’s having now crumbled at the threat of disproportionate penalties being levied by Scottish Govt, in the event of unilateral dissent, the horse-trading of A&B CC deciding its priorities for implementation begins .

      Tiree, having had MSP Mike Russell’s support in its ‘protest ‘ will be looking, with interest, as to the substance of his support in this horse-trading process

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

      RobTrythall February 10, 2016 9:17 am Reply
  • 4,25 mllion to be spent on the new “Visit” Scotland campaign… yet A & B council are planning to close our public toilet… the very reason for it existing is to provide at least one facility for visitors/tourists.

    So please spread the word… please visit our beautiful isle but please empty your bowels first: and taking one of the campaigns sound bites to heart…. LOL… ” It’s good to know peace and quiet is only a paddle away” … ” but don’t forget your loo roll…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

    Karl Hughes February 10, 2016 11:10 am Reply
  • As I have pointed out to Tiree Community Council, I do not take kindly to being accused of ignoring correspondence from anyone. The letter that Mr Holliday states was sent to all councillors, was certainly not received by me. I have investigated and it now appears that no councillors received the letter dated 18th January. It appears that the reason Cllr Breslin responded was that he was given the letter separately by the Secretary of the Community Council. As I informed one of the Community Councillors yesterday evening, I am investigating further to try and determine why councillors did not receive that latter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

    Councillor George Freeman February 11, 2016 11:17 am Reply
  • I have now received confirmation that the Community Council letter dated 18th January 2015, that Mr Holliday accuses me if ignoring, was not received by me or other councillors. The reason that Cllr Breslin managed to respond to that letter was that he had been in contact with the secretary of the Community Council and received his own personal copy. I hope that this now clarifies the matter. I would advise Mr Holliday to email me in future if he wants to confirm that I have received correspondence from the Community Council as the electronic system never (or very seldom) lies. Best wishes to Tiree Community Council and all on Tiree.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

    Councillor George Freeman February 11, 2016 11:31 am Reply
    • Nice you could pop by Mr Freeman… any news yet on where our visitors are expected to go to the toilet ???

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

      Karl Hughes February 11, 2016 1:00 pm Reply
  • What a mess these councillors have made of A&B!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

    Hugh Jazz February 11, 2016 12:23 pm Reply
  • Hmmm….I now feel that I have to respond to George’s comments with some further clarity, if only to uphold our Chairman’s good name. I agree that the electronic system never lies, which is why I have a copy of my email of the 18th February, (which was sent to the absolutely correct person at Kilmory)below, and also of course the affirmative response that I received from Kilmory. This was a fairly simple and straightforward request which would presumably ensure that all Councillors duly received the Tiree Community Council letter of the 18th February, directly into their personal mail `dookits’? Out of generosity, I have omitted the recipients name and email address, but I am more than happy to provide George with the original emails to enable him to properly complete his investigation.

    Ian Gillies
    Attachments 18 Jan

    Dear xxxxx

    I’m attaching a letter to all Argyll and Bute Council Councillors, and we would be very grateful if you will print off individual letters and pop them into the respective Councillors letter boxes at Kilmory.

    Any problems. don’t hesitate to give me a call.

    Many thanks, and best regards,

    Ian.

    Ian Gillies,
    Tiree Community Council.

    Ian

    Will do.

    Hope you are well.

    xxxxx

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

    Ian Gillies February 11, 2016 5:13 pm Reply
  • As I understand it the letter was in the public domain, shortly after it was sent? Can someone confirm?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    Citizen of argyll and bute February 12, 2016 8:36 am Reply
  • Does it make any financial sense to withold our council TAX on Tiree ??? put it into a local pot…and use it to top up our % of the A & B budget…. just a thought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    Karl Hughes February 12, 2016 8:53 am Reply
  • Tiree Community Council, (TCC), website, http://www.tireecommunitycouncil.co.uk on 18th Jan, TCC Facebook page on the 20th Jan and ForArgyll.com on 6th Feb.
    Ian Gillies,
    Tiree Community Council.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    Ian Gillies February 12, 2016 9:21 am Reply
  • Thank you Mr Gillies as I thought. As a mere mortal I was aware of it, not sure from when or how. Mr Freeman hopefully willublish the findings of his investigation, but I can’t help wondering why every councillor was unaware. Perhaps if some of them had been more vocal about the damaging cuts they too would have had their own personal copy! Of greater importance is George Freeman’s

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    Citizen of argyll and bute February 12, 2016 11:03 am Reply
  • ….voting during the debate. Did he vote with the damaging cuts or against?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    Citizen of argyll and bute February 12, 2016 11:05 am Reply
  • Unless the Council’s Convenor accepted a request for a roll call vote by a majority of Councillors present, we shall probably not know the answer to your question. The minutes will eventually give the outcome.

    On a wider point, it is amazing that in such a geographically large area like Argyll. that critically important meetings are not broadcast live, as is done for example in the Scottish parliament.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

    Ian Gillies February 12, 2016 7:28 pm Reply
    • It is indeed extraordinarily unevolved that this is not the case.
      It is also shocking to see some of the measures being adopted now -in 2016 – to save money – like using email and not posting hard copy whee possible and like electronic billing and payments.
      We had never imagined that these were not the methods in use and for some considerable time.
      ABC appears steam driven in every way.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

      newsroom February 12, 2016 9:57 pm Reply
  • I agree about broadcast and noticed Councillor Freeman has gone quiet…maybe he will still respond to the letter as nothing has really changed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    Citizen of argyll and bute February 12, 2016 9:51 pm Reply

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