By Bill Heaney
West Dunbartonshire Council have launched a new budget consultation to give residents more say on how their money is spent.
Obviously embarrassed by public criticism of the way they have done things previously, the Council have spent more public money to see if they can find out what the public would and would not like to see done with their taxpayers’ money.
The latest response to a Council plea for public participation like this was about spending a new £5 million plus library and museum project in Dumbarton.
Only 300 citizens gave their views and the Council took it this meant there was a majority of residents in favour of this, but more than 80,000 people live in West Dunbartonshire. Do the math.
By the Council’s reckoning then, less than 300 out of 80,000 saying Yes to that project has given them permission to proceed.
The new priority-based survey asks residents to give feedback on which Council services are vital to them. This is done by ranking services such as schools, roads, libraries and sport and leisure in order of importance.
The outcome of the consultation, which takes place four months earlier than normal, will give both Council Officers and Elected Members a clear indication of the services where there is more appetite for change.
The Council have given no reason why this consultation has been brought forward – and since they have banned and boycotted The Democrat for being insolent enough to ask relevant questions of them we cannot give you an answer.
The survey will remain open until Sunday 29 September 2019. Results will then be reported to Council and will inform the final budget agreed and savings taken at the budget setting meeting in February/ March 2020.
Councillor Ian Dickson, pictured left, Convener of Corporate Services, said: “I welcome the launch of this new budget consultation which will give our residents the opportunity to influence the decisions taken by Councillors when setting next year’s budget.
“The Council’s budget has stayed largely the same for the past five years but during that period we’ve had to deal with a variety of pressures such as rising inflation, public sector wage increases, an ageing population with more demand for Council services, and increasing costs.”
The other half of the Chuckle Brothers, who with Council leader Jonathan McColl, has laughed his way through a whole series of austerity measures, added: “To balance the books the Council has reduced management costs by £1.5 million, increased efficiency and productivity, changed opening hours, and closed expensive old buildings.
“Looking to the future it is inevitable that further difficult decisions will be required, with £9 million of savings required by April 2020 alone. This consultation will guide us when we take those key decisions next year and I would encourage as many residents to take part as possible.”
So what cuts do the SNP administration have in mind for the next financial year? Why don’t they list them now in order that the public, whose money they have been trusted with, so that they can score what they don’t want off the list?
The reason for that is that it would remove their influence and give back power to the electorate, which is something we are unlikely [definitely won’t] see in Dumbarton.
Residents can access the survey via the Council website and in local libraries. There will also be focus group events in communities across West Dunbartonshire.
A report detailing the findings will be reported to councillors in November before the budget is officially set in February.