This week's Councillor Column is written by Lorna Douglas, SNP councillor for Helensburgh Central.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Following Argyll and Bute Council’s budget meeting, reports in the Advertiser, and questions raised and answers given, there are some issues in need of clarification regarding the budget cuts that were voted through two weeks ago.

It would seem that matters are often muddied around how councils operate, particularly around budgets.

The council is made up of 36 councillors – 22 of them Conservative, Liberal Democrats and some independents who form the ruling administration.

Like other forms of government, the party or parties that hold the power, whether by being propped up or coalition, will always have the strength in numbers, so the Conservative/Liberal Democrat led administration, will always vote through what they want.

The administration councillors are privy to information long before those who are not in their group. The administration are the ones who sets the scene as to the model of budget setting that is used.

The Conservative/Liberal Democrat council administration are always berating the Scottish Government’s cuts to local authorities. But they fail to say that it was a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition in Westminster who, in 2010, initiated an austerity programme whose goals were to be met in part by public spending cuts.

This programme has had a cumulative detrimental financial impact on councils and the public services they deliver.

Financial decision making is not likely to get any easier for local authorities, with the ever looming mess of Brexit, which the people of Argyll and Bute did not vote for.

So our council’s budget decisions will be weighted towards the principles, values and beliefs of the administration councillors, either with or without the backing of other councillors.

In this year’s budget, principles, values, and beliefs diverged. The Conservative/Liberal Democrat led administration voting to cut among other things, youth and adult learning services and the road safety unit.

Why? Because these services were not in their mixed bag of principles, beliefs or values.

The SNP councillors, and the independents not in the administration, proposed protecting these two services – because they were core to our principles, beliefs and values.

A note of thanks to all those in the community who took the time to engage in the budget process and make their views known – especially the young people of our community who got active, organised petitions and made their voice heard.