Our latest Councillor Column sees Gary Mulvaney, Conservative councillor for Helensburgh Central and Argyll and Bute's depute leader, look ahead to the authority's annual budget meeting later this week.

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This week will see Argyll and Bute Council set its budget, agree service plans and determine the council tax against a backdrop of a £7.9 million gap between what we spend and receive.

Our like-for-like Scottish Government grant is down £3.1m, leaving an unpalatable combination of service cuts and council tax rises to plug that gap.

In simple terms, the SNP government has failed to prioritise local government services. There can be no excuse that it is anyone else’s fault, as this year the UK treasury monies passed to Scotland increased by a whopping £950 million – a real benefit of being part of the UK.

Despite this, councils will be forced to cut services and increase council tax, with Nicola Sturgeon breaking a manifesto commitment to limit council tax increases to three per cent with rises of nearly five per cent.

READ MORE: Budget gap 'will take a lot of work to fill'

Trying to dress up the breach as ‘in real terms’ fools no-one. The message, after a dirty dozen years of nationalism, is that as a country we generate less wealth, have poorer public services, waste more, die younger and pay more tax. The SNP’s only answer is “independence – what’s the question?”. Thank you Messrs Salmond, Sturgeon and co.

As a price for the SNP getting their budget through Parliament, their nodding dogs in the Greens insisted on a £400 workplace car parking tax for those who benefit from a parking space at their work. Previous SNP ministers had ruled this out as undesirable and unworkable, but in order to get a budget deal struck, it is now part of the SNP budget.

There is an exemption for hospitals, but what about teachers, police officers, or other public sector workers? Shop workers or those that work in rural areas like Argyll?

Would major employers like MoD and Babcock be hit? Will folk just park nearby, clogging up other roads and residential areas? Make your feelings known to SNP MSPs as there is still time for this daftest of ideas to be kicked way down the road, and for the lentil-munching Greens to be told to get on their bikes.

READ MORE: Advertiser View: Will Argyll and Bute's worst-case budget scenario match reality?

Finally, it's good news that the waterfront development received planning consent on the basis of the original plan and design. It’s unfortunate that it was delayed by a couple of months, but there is reassurance from this in that the location and flooding aspects have been highly scrutinised.

Although behind schedule, the project can now move ahead to finalise internal design detail and the critical tender and procurement process.

Most folk I have spoken to are pleased that the time for talking is over, and that we can just get on with it