It’s Council Budget Day on Monday
How would you spend the £millions?
The new West Dunbartonshire Council headquarters in Dumbarton.
February 28, 2018 – You have to be in it to win it. So, don’t start mumping and moaning when West Dunbartonshire Council gathers in Clydebank Town Hall on Monday to decide the budget for the forthcoming financial year.
It is appropriate that the meeting is in Clydebank since it is Clydebank that gets most of the money. Or, as Mary Berry would have it, the largest slice of the cake.
Do I hear cries of “foul” from the Burgh beyond Old Kilpatrick?
Those of you who have been following local government in Dunbartonshire will be aware that the Bankies always got more than their fair share.
At least they have done over the half century or so since I first sat at the press benches of Dumbarton’s Municipal Buildings, Clydebank Town Hall and Strathclyde Regional Council’s Montrose House in Cadogan Street.
Why, their most recent stroke of pushing their luck was to obtain a bailieship for Councillor Denis Agnew, long after bailieships went the way of ermine cloaks and tri-corn hats.
That was Bailie Agnew’s reward (there are other words for it) for being Dunbartonshire’s answer to the DUP.
While that unseemly lot in Northern Ireland keep Theresa May in power at Westminster, Bailie Agnew does a similar favour for the SNP’s Jonathan McColl and his minority administration at Garshake and Clydebank.
Agnew, a deserter from Labour, is in effect the SNP puppet master and Cllr McColl is the puppet.
Bailie Agnew (pictured at a sponsorship event in Clydebank) is in charge of Communications, Art and Culture, which is a fancy title for someone who doesn’t exactly excel at communications, art or culture.
I can only go on the fact that I recently (about six weeks ago) passed on to him a letter from an exiled Dumbartonian consultant surgeon informing me that the granddaughter of the famous novelist A J Cronin would be coming to Dumbarton this autumn and the council might like to do something to mark the occasion.
After all it would give them the opportunity to make up for the fact that the great author was practically ignored by civic Dumbarton until recently when a campaigning English person persuaded them it might be a good idea to get at least a plaque put up in the library acknowledging the fact that Cronin was one of us.
Events to mark the visit of Diane Cronin will take place at the University of Glasgow, St Aloysius College and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons.
However, the fact that the author of Dr Finlay’s Casebook, Hatter’s Castle, The Citadel, The Stars Look Down and other masterpieces also went to Dumbarton Academy when it was the old Dumbarton Academy in the Burgh Hall building in Church Street may not be recognised.
At least it may not be recognised by West Dunbartonshire Council since they haven’t got back in touch with the visit organisers.
Marks out of ten then for Bailie Agnew and his Communications team, which costs us around £400,000 a year, on this project are nil, although they might have been in touch by now.
Marks out of ten for Arts and Culture are not much better since Diane Cronin will be here to have discussions with the BBC about a new series of Dr Finlay’s Casebook.
This would have been their chance to have much of the filming done in Dumbarton where we have the River City studios at Gooseholm, but who knows where they are going on that one if they have not communicated.
Anyway, back to the council budget which Bailie Agnew will have had a big say in since he holds the casting vote without which the SNP will not get their proposed cuts through.
It seems that more than 2700 people – out of a total population of around 90,000, have given their views on budget savings options.
The results of the budget consultation will be presented to councillors on Monday, March 5.
The consultation, which the council claim is one of the largest in the Council’s history, – although the have omitted to communicate what the largest one was – is said to have included an online survey, drop-in sessions and focus groups with representatives from community organisations in Alexandria, Dumbarton and Clydebank.
Residents, staff and other “stakeholders” were asked for their views on 16 savings options included in the draft administration budget, as well as 38 alternative options.
The proposals have been developed to address an estimated £13million budget gap over the next three years.
The results on the draft administration budget options were as follows, beginning with the ones that went down well with the people consulted.
These included transferring cash payments to PayPoint and post offices (90.3% agree) plus:
- Reducing payments to parent councils (75.2%)
- Increasing membership charges at Dalmuir Golf Course (74.9%)
- Reducing funding to strategic partners (70.3%)
- Removing summer bedding displays (69.7%)
- Reducing cemetery maintenance (66.8%)
- Reviewing grants to voluntary organisations (66.6%)
- Removing the weekend litter squad (59.6%)
- Reducing Park Maintenance (57.2%)
- Reducing the Curriculum for Excellence budget (57.1%)
- Withdrawing school crossing patrols from junctions where pedestrian crossings exist (53.1%)
- Reducing discretionary rates relief for charities (50.7%)
- Reductions to central spend on recreational activity (49%)
- Reductions in the devolved school budgets (35%)
- Review of waste services (29.6%)
If the council were to ask me – and, unsurprisingly they didn’t – I would not reduce payments to parents councils, remove summer bedding plants and reduce maintenance in our parks, reduce cemetery maintenance, remove weekend litter squads withdraw crossing patrols or review grants to voluntary organisations.
I would stop all support for the Curriculum for Excellence, which teachers tell me is a waste of time and money.;
I would keep the libraries open and the staff in place and come up with a way of giving support to local artists and authors, of which I am one, who are council taxpayers.
Cutting down on paid trade union officials, who will be needed more and more to negotiate terms for people caught up in the upcoming merger of functions over a number of authorities, would not be on my list of cuts.
Nor would axing community facilities, grass cutting services, centralising registration services in Dumbarton, removing school clothing top up grants or reviewing (increasing) charges for special uplifts.
I would kill off the golf Pro-Am event and reduce devolved school budgets, but I wouldn’t take the food or milk out of children’s mouths at lunchtimes.
It’s really putting the poor mouth on it to ask for volunteers to become lollipop patrols and talk about cutting back on Christmas trees and festive lights.
I would increase street cleaning, particularly in the town centres, and make sure footpaths and roads were gritted properly during bad weather.
Keep the Loch Lomond Highland Games and the Scottish Pipe Band Championships, but cease the firework displays because I don’t like fireworks and consider them dangerous and terrifying for children and pets.
Councillors will decide which measures should be implemented at the Council’s Budget Meeting on Monday, 5 March, at 2pm in Clydebank Town Hall.
I wish us luck but I have no sympathy if you have foisted on you or taken from you services you neither need nor want.
You either voted for these councillors or alternatively didn’t bother your backside to go to the polls.
All is fair in love and politics, or it’s usually fair except when the vote of a single person such as Bailie Denis Agnew is keeping the SNP in power and milking the situation for all its worth.