Domestic abuse campaigners Janine Jardine of Women’s Aid and Cllrs Diane Docherty and Caroline McAllister. Picture by Bill Heaney
By Democrat reporter
Travelling people, women who are victims of domestic abuse and taxi drivers will be amongst the beneficiaries from West Dunbartonshire Council’s budget, while free meals for schoolchildren will be placed on the back burner by the SNP for yet another year.
And taxpayers should expect more cuts in services such as care homes which are run by the Health and Social Care Partnership.
A council press release says it “has set its budget for the year ahead with a focus on helping the area recover from the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The 2021/22 budget reflects the significant impact of the pandemic and details of spending for the coming year included investment in additional community empowerment officers to assist residents and groups to shape recovery plans and enhance their areas.
In addition there is funding to support victims of domestic abuse with £40,000 for two local Women’s Aid refuges. West Dunbartonshire is in the unenviable position of being the worst council area in the country for domestic violence.
A further £152,000 is being spent on accelerating maintenance and repairs to buildings including schools, early learning and childcare centres and community centres which had to be put on hold due to pandemic restrictions, with £200,000 invested in improving pavements in the area to enhance walking routes.
A number of key projects will be progressed in the coming 12 months including the opening of a new education campus in Renton and completion of a new gym, changing facility and running track in Dumbarton, although the money for these projects will have previously been budgeted for.
There will be investment in the Antonine Wall Heritage Fund which is delivering a project to bring the history of the World Heritage Site back to life as an interactive attraction including Roman themed play parks along the length of the structure. Funding has also been committed to improve the DennIstoun Forge Gypsy Traveller Site in Dumbarton.
Taxi and private hire car drivers will have their current single year licences extended to cover two years at no additional cost reflecting the impact of the pandemic on the trade.
It was agreed at a previous Council meeting in February that Council Tax levels would be frozen for 2021/22.
The £2.6 million funding gap – the difference between the cost of delivering services and the money the Council receives from government and income – will be met in part by freeing up £1.3 million identified to introduce free school meals for all primary pupils following confirmation this would become a national initiative; using £895,000 from the sale of Council assets; and through identifying efficiencies within the Health and Social Care Partnership and Council.
The Council have not revealed what assets they intend to sell to bring in money, nor have they mentioned what will happen to the over-payment of £3 million which the government says they are due.