THIS week's councillor column comes from David Kinniburgh, Conservative councillor for Helensburgh and Lomond South.


LAST week saw the most important and difficult meeting in the council calendar – the annual meeting which approves the budget for the coming year.

Over the last 10 years Argyll and Bute Council has delivered savings of over £57million in order to meet our legal responsibility to deliver a balanced budget each year – and with the settlement that the council receives from the Scottish Government reducing on an annual basis, meeting that legal responsibility is becoming more and more difficult.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has said that local government is in crisis after years and years of severe cuts to its core funding, and unless the Scottish Government provides a fairer settlement to local authorities, that crisis has the potential of taking some councils to the brink of bankruptcy.

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Indeed as it currently stands Argyll and Bute Council could have to identify more than £20 million of further savings over the following two years, based on current predictions, and this, of course, will present further challenges as we take further decisions to meet our legal responsibilities.

Taking action to reduce or remove services that the council provide is something no elected member likes to do, especially when it affects the whole of Argyll and Bute in general, and the constituents that they represent in their own wards in particular.

But the harsh reality is that the council has a duty to provide services that are statutory, and as a result of the cuts in funding received from central government in Edinburgh each year, non-statutory services have suffered.

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It cannot have escaped the notice of most that proposed cuts to non statutory services that elected members have managed to reject in recent years, such as school crossing patrollers, keep coming back from officers for consideration year on year.

And while no elected member wants to take the difficult decision to get rid of such services, the truth of the matter is that because many statutory services have been reduced to the bare minimum that allows them to be delivered to meet the requirements of our statutory obligations, it puts an ever-increasing pressure on elected members to consider cutting non statutory services that are so important to many.

Unless the Scottish Government provide fairer settlements in the future, those difficult choices will unfortunately still need to be taken.

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