Helensburgh councillors Aileen Morton and Gary Mulvaney.

By Bill Heaney

Council tax in the communities of Cardross, Garelochside, Helensburgh and the Rosneath Peninsula are set to rise by just over £1 a week.

Argyll and Bute Council announced this yesterday in what they have called “the responsible budget” set for 2019/20.

Controversial proposals to remove school crossing patrollers; close customer service points; reduce grounds and environment services, a measure which caused uproar in West Dunbartonshire, and an increase parking charges were all rejected by the Council.

Helensburgh woman, Councillor Aileen Morton, the Council leader, said: “The challenges we face are substantial. We need to have the ambition, the determination and the drive to do more than just survive, to do more than just protect the existence of this council and its essential services.

“Setting a responsible budget for Argyll and Bute is about making choices that support people and communities now, and also look after the future of Argyll and Bute – and that’s what we’ve done.”

She added: “Over the past nine years, we have had to make £50 million in savings, and this year had to deal with a funding gap of nearly £8 million.

If this pattern of never-ending cuts carries on, then the continued existence of local authorities – to be blunt – is questionable.

“Cuts mean that we have had to make tough decisions about even the most valued council services.

“Today, as much as possible, we have protected vital services, we have listened to the views of local people and we have invested in building a successful future for Argyll and Bute.

West Clyde Street in Helensburgh pictured this week. Pictures by Bill Heaney

“This – in the circumstances – is the best budget for Argyll and Bute. This is the responsible budget for Argyll and Bute.”

Councillor Gary Mulvaney, also of Helensburgh, the deputy leader and finance convener, set out the council’s approach to making its funding work for Argyll and Bute.

He said: “The scale of the cuts that local government has faced in recent years means that now, when it comes to making savings, we’re looking at our very heart, our very core business.

“We have had to prioritise our statutory duties first and foremost, which inevitably means that those non-statutory, but equally valuable and important services, have to bear the brunt of cuts.

“Funding cuts increase the importance of council tax in making services possible. Cuts mean more and more that public services need public in-put. We have had to increase council tax by the full amount indicated by the Scottish Government.

Helensburgh tractor 5

Work in parks, left,  will go on unhindered.

“With the help of local people, through council tax, we can support essential public services.

“What we are doing is taking prudent decisions which protect services and jobs as much as possible through the best use of finance, resources and technology.

“The priority that underpins everything we do is that of prudent financial management. And we will continue that focus – to do the right thing, take the right action, make the right choices, in, for and with Argyll and Bute.”

Key decisions made include an additional £500,000 for winter maintenance, building on the £15m extra invested in the road network last year to keep Argyll and Bute open for business.

An additional £2 million is being pumped into the Health and Social Care Partnership.

It has been agreed to spend £120,000 to bring the money-spinning Royal National Mod to Oban in 2023.

Kintyre Recycling Limited will receive £24,000 but there is to be a £500,000 reduction in council management costs over the next three years.

The increase in council tax will see Band D increase from £1,249 to £1,308.83.

For those who wish to look online at the full details of the savings proposed by the Council, this is the link: http://bit.ly/2DYLTVQ.

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