Council cuts diluted – but jobs still under threat

Spending will be cut by 1% for the next two years by Argyll and Bute Council in what is billed as a ‘preserve and prepare’ budget.

A statement released by the council says there will be ‘relative financial stability’ until 2016, when funding from central government is expected to be cut.

But a former leader of the council has accused elected members of not taking responsibility for the strategy, adding that the 1% annual cut equated to £1.9m for the next two years or 73 full-time jobs.

The SNP’s James Robb had proposed to slash spending by £6m every year until 2012 when his party was in power.

But these cuts now look set to be watered down by the coalition which took over after the SNP leadership collapsed this summer.

The strategy was agreed at Thursday’s full meeting of the council, with the 1% savings being applied evenly across the authority’s departments.

Dick Walsh, who returned to power as leader of the council in September, said: “This strategy gives us time and opportunity to plan responsibly for delivering services that meet the needs of our people and communities in the longer term.

“We are working, with our community planning partners, to achieve clear, ambitious priorities for Argyll and Bute.

“These priorities are designed to create a positive, prosperous future for Argyll and Bute so will shape our future financial planning.”

Cllr Robb , who spell as leader of the council lasted only a few weeks,  said after the meeting: “The unionists have a huge majority so Cllr Walsh was able to secure two years to develop his financial strategy.

“The SNP argued that it was councillors’ duty to take responsibility for the almost £4m of service cuts proposed.

“Shifting that responsibility to officers with no scrutiny or approval by councillors is one of the strangest decisions ever taken. “

The council’s budget will be set in February.

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