ARGYLL and Bute councillor Ellen Morton discusses the difficult decisions faced by the council in the lead up to last month's budget announcement.


THE Scottish Government has cut Argyll and Bute’s budget by millions in the last nine years so every year we have to find savings to fill this gap which gets more and more difficult.

This year the Scottish Government advised councils they could find extra money for services by raising council tax by 4.79 per cent and raised the possibility of councils being allowed to introduce an employer’s parking charge and a tourist tax.

In the council budget last Thursday all councillors voted to raise the council tax by the 4.79 per cent suggested by the Government, but did not consider the employer’s parking charge or the tourist tax, both of which could have serious implications for businesses and workers, and about which there has been little detail.

Clearly it is never good to be raising taxes while services are being cut, but since about 50 per cent of our money is ring-fenced by the Government for education and social work and cannot be spent on anything else, we have few options.

Of the savings options which were consulted on we managed to avoid taking the cut in school crossing patrols and in the some of the proposals which would have reduced the frequency of grass being cut in public areas.

We did not agree to increase parking charges although the SNP voted for parking charges to be increased. The SNP also proposed a cut to the money being spent on our roads when they opposed an extra £500,000 every year for our roads budget to be spent on winter maintenance to ensure our roads can be kept open no matter the weather.

I am sure we all have vivid memories of ‘The Beast from the East’ last spring and the difficulties that brought to our communities.

Despite the doom and gloom that the budget brings I also try to focus on the many improvements made over the last few years. We have new or refurbished schools across the area, many of our important buildings like Clyde Street School have been brought back into use, our town centres have been improved and our roads and footpaths have had millions spent on them after years of neglect.

There is, of course, more to do and apparently the forecast is that our budget will be cut again for the next two years, but we will deal with that if it happens, just as I am sure we will deal with the consequences of Brexit, whatever they may be.