Helensburgh public to be consulted on service priorities

By Stef Lach

Members of the public will be asked for their views on the council’s latest campaign to bring funding to Argyll and Bute, as part of a consultation on budget priorities.

At its meeting this month, the council agreed to seek the views of local people on how best to bridge an estimated funding gap of £9.2million in 2020/21.

The consultation highlights work the council has been doing to increase funding for local services through the potential transfer of four council-run ferries to Transport Scotland.

This move would release £1m a year.

Council Leader, Councillor Aileen Morton, explained: “We’ve been doing a lot of work to raise awareness of Argyll and Bute’s opportunities and challenges among those who could support its future.

Cllrs Aileen Morton and Gary Mulvaney

“Argyll and Bute needs its council to provide more services than many other councils, for example ferry services. Argyll and Bute though has had a bigger cut to its council funding over recent years than most other areas in Scotland.

“We’ve been promoting Argyll and Bute’s cause therefore in different ways, to try to secure more support for its council services. We want Argyll and Bute to thrive.”

Work done includes setting up a Forum that brings together Argyll and Bute’s Parliamentarians to consider local issues and opportunities; leading a partnership of West Coast councils seeking Scottish Government support in addressing de-population; raising Argyll and Bute matters nationally via COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities); and working with other island authorities to promote island needs at UK and Scottish Government level.

The consultation agreed today includes a question on whether or not the public supports council-run ferries transferring to Transport Scotland to protect them from council budget cuts.

The ferry services under consideration for transfer are Easdale/Seil, Lismore/Port Appin, Luing/Seil; and Jura/Islay.

Councillor Gary Mulvaney, Depute Leader of the Council said, said: “It’s simple – the more funding the council has, the more we can do for local people. We are looking at all options for increasing funding for Argyll and Bute. Transport Scotland delivers ferry services for other islands – it’s been running Western Isles’ ferries for a number of years, and has provided £20m+ for ferries in Orkney and Shetland.

“We obviously need to look at Transport Scotland’s role in supporting Argyll and Bute, the area with the highest number of inhabited islands of all of Scotland’s councils.”

The consultation will be available on the council’s website (www.argyll-bute.gov.uk), from council customer service points, and by calling 01546 604171 from w/b 28 October, and will run until Monday 16 December.

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