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
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.
- 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)!
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
Dr. John Holliday, Convenor.
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.