At today’s, 11th February, council meetings on the 2016-17 budget decision, The Reform Group’s fresh, radical and enlivening proposal received only three votes – their own. Some councillors who might have supported it – the SNP’s Iain Angus Macdonald and Iain MacLean were absent. [Why? For this crucial meeting?]
Council Leader Dick Walsh went for his favourite Music Hall routine – letting no one know his proposal until the last minute and then pulling tired rabbits out of old hats.
Reading what he has finally done – which demonstrates that he could indeed assimilate the imposed cuts with far less pain than he had held over Argyll, raises the question of the level of irresponsibility he has displayed in leading council staff to fear for their jobs and Argyll residents to fear for key services
With this care for the morale of staff, it can be no surprise that one of the rabbits hauled from the dusty Walsh topper was the stunner that no fewer than over 450 Council employees have expressed interest in voluntary redundancy. And that is after the last eight yeas of annual council budget cuts have seem many others take the same route. Does anyone actually want to work for this outfit?
Since the Concil Leader plans 82 FTEs in lost jobs, he regards what is breathtaking evidence of a dysfunctional employer as a really lucky strike. He’ll be able to hand out the redundancies as prizes to the fastest making it to the Exit door.
Stealing The Reform Group’s clothes
In his self congratulatory press release, the old conjuror stole some of the clothes of The Reform Group’s new thinking.I is an inverted compliment that he sees much of their policy as his own survival jacket.
- ‘Where we have taken savings, we have focused on innovation and efficiency, not least by reducing the elected member budget by £150,000. We will pursue management savings as part of our transformation journey.’
- He is also taking over three quarters of a million out of staff travel costs – without saying how this will be achieved; where The Reform Group’s own plan for this was made possible by a radical restructuring of management and internal communications.
- ‘We will focus therefore over the next twelve months on giving more power to local areas, involving them in prioritising local spending on a range of issues that matter to them. The need to make savings and to transform how we work is long term. Working in partnership will ensure we make the best use of whatever resources we have.’
His plans include:
- pushing rubbish collections out to three weekly intervals;
- taking 25% out of the budget for dangerous/urgent maintenance within Roads and Amenity property;
- taking 25% out of the budget for dangerous/urgent maintenance within depots ;
- maintaining hedges in winter only [which may means no maintenance] and with one cut per year;
- cutting grass only once a year and in October / November – ‘with other areas returned to meadow/natural growth’;
- returning rose and shrub beds to grass.
Given the impact of these choices on life in Argyll, he then announces: ‘We have ensured therefore that we are in a position to invest in creating economic growth. Our package of measures will see an investment, from our financial reserves and capital funding, of some £75 million designed to attract more people to live and work here, securing employment and prosperity for our area.’
The detail of what is to be cut is the last – and long – section in the council press release here.