Our latest Councillor Column sees Argyll and Bute Council leader Aileen Morton reflect on the authority's budget decisions.

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Council budgets were set at the end of February and, across Scotland, the last couple of weeks have been dominated by reactions to the difficult decisions taken and the impact on local life.

It’s impossible for local authorities today to bring forward a budget that meets everyone’s expectations but no matter how difficult it is we have no choice but to set a balanced budget.

That is as inescapable a truth as the fact that for the past several years all councils in Scotland have faced crippling funding cuts.

The independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre has issued many briefings over the past few years which have shown that the Scottish Government has cut local council funding far more than any cuts to their own budget.

In Argyll and Bute the pain is greater as our funding cuts in recent years have been twice the level of the Scotland-wide cut for councils.

So what do you do? Argyll and Bute Council’s ruling administration knows there is no choice but to face up to the difficult choices – to look at the overall picture and make the use of very limited and thinly spread resources.

For any politician it’s always tempting to take the most popular approach, support a campaign for a few headlines and then abandon it for the next “issue”. We, however, believe it’s more important to take a responsible approach.

The one area where we allocated additional funding in our budget was winter maintenance – which covers gritting and ploughing as well as dealing with flooding and winter storms depending on what the weather brings.

This is an important service that has an impact on virtually every resident, and for the most vulnerable, who require care at home support, it is literally a lifeline service.

It is also a service that has overspent by hundreds of thousands of pounds every single year for at least ten years – we needed to address this, or risk the service being slashed as it is reviewed this coming year.

That meant taking other savings that we would have preferred not to, but those are the choices we faced up to.

There are no easy options now and as cuts to council funding continue – as they are predicted to do – the choices each year will become even more challenging.

A solution would be fair funding for essential local services – and that’s a cause to which every politician who truly has Argyll and Bute’s best interests at heart will add their voice.