ARGYLL and Bute Council’s leader has hit back at criticism from the area’s MP and MSP after the council opened its budget consultation process.

Brendan O’Hara MP and Michael Russell MSP claimed that Westminster, and not the Scottish Government, was responsible for the funding reduction which has left the authority to seek millions of pounds of savings for the 2020/21 financial year.

However, Councillor Aileen Morton has responded to an open letter from the area’s MP and MSP by saying that members of all political parties “work well together” within the council – and has offered to meet the duo to secure more funding for the area.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities [COSLA] recently stated that it would seek an increase of inflation plus three per cent for council grants from Holyrood.

The council is currently consulting with the public on the 2019/20 budget, a process which will run until December.

School crossing patrols and pupil support assistants are among the savings options under scrutiny, as well as increasing the cost of burials and cremations.

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In a joint statement, Mr O’Hara and Mr Russell said: “Whilst we are very sympathetic to the difficulties that all public bodies, including the Scottish Government, have faced as a result of a decade of austerity it is only fair to point out that this was imposed not by the Scottish Parliament, but by Westminster.

“In fact the Scottish Parliament and the SNP Scottish Government have consistently opposed austerity, even when it has been supported by Liberal Democrat and Tory MSPs at Holyrood.

“It is not correct to say, as you have recently done, that local government has been unfairly singled out for greater cuts than those imposed on the Scottish Government.

“Over the same period, the Accounts Commission found that local government resource budgets had gone down by around six per cent in real terms – almost two per cent less than the cut imposed on Holyrood.

“And this year whilst the Scottish Government budget will further decline by 1.1 per cent in real terms the local Government budget is actually going up, by 1.2 per cent.

“We are always happy to work alongside, and in support of, the council, and we would be keen to meet to help you develop a detailed plan for the future of the area we are all elected to serve.

“But we must all be straight with local people and explain that responsibility for the difficulties that the council is experiencing do not all lie at the door of the Scottish Government, and therefore nor do all the possible solutions.”

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The statement concluded: “The Scottish Government is, and has been, working hard to assist Argyll and Bute, and will go on doing so, as will we.”

The open letter was sent out to sections of the local press in Argyll and Bute, but not to Councillor Morton personally.

And she responded: “I was saddened to see the attack on the council from the local SNP MP and MSP, particularly since they found the time to email it to the press, but didn’t have the courtesy to send it to me directly.

“On the council, all councillors work well together – particularly when addressing the major challenges the council faces.

“Last year the SNP councillors supported the administration’s budget. This year there were only slight differences between the administration’s budget and the SNP’s one.

“Instead of attacking the council, our MP and MSP should be like the SNP Councillors and work with the council to make the case to the Scottish Government for more money for Argyll and Bute.

“COSLA have made a very clear ask of the Scottish Government in terms of funding – it would be great to see this delivered, and of course it’s the Scottish Cabinet, including our MSP, who actually make the decisions.

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“The fact is that over the past 10 years, the council has had to make savings of over £50million. That means real hardship for many local people – many jobs lost, many services withdrawn. That’s the sad reality.”

On the prospect of meeting with Mr O’Hara and Mr Russell, Councillor Morton added: “I would be pleased to do so, and want to work with the local MP and MSP to make the case for more funding for Argyll and Bute.”

The consultation is available for the public to take part in at

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