By Bill Heaney

All sorts of budget cuts are being suggested to meet the financial crisis at West Dunbartonshire Council.

Predictably, none of them has come up with proposals to reduce the salaries of councillors or highly paid officials, some of whom earn between £50,000 and £100,000.

What they do deal with though are things such as cutting school clothing grants to £120 for primary school children and £150 for secondary school children.

And paying off lollipop patrols and and reducing the school maintenance allowance for students from £35 per fortnight to £30.

Not to mention removing the breakfast club provision in all primary schools and taking away free swimming lessons for children in primary 4.

Someone obviously omitted to inform the well-heeled officials, who are making these suggestions,  that West Dunbartonshire is an area of high unemployment, deprivation and child poverty.

And poor people who can’t cope in the current cost of living crisis having to use food banks and being left penniless to the extent of being cut off if they can’t meet the cost of gas and electricity.

There is of course the unforgivable suggestion from one official that formal education should take place in schools – primary and secondary – on just four days a week with “activities” on the fifth day.  We told you about that earlier this week in The Democrat.

If these are the best the officials can come up with then they should be looking for another job.

The budget document which makes these suggestions as to what should be cut – the items will have to be agreed by the elected members before they are implemented – makes grim reading.

The councillors can accept or reject these suggestions, but by doing so they risk sanctions which could even involve them being sent to prison.

Or administrators brought in by the Holyrood government to replace them.

However, such measures have been spoken about from time to time during my 50 years or so of covering local government, but in my experience no such thing has ever happened.

No councillor has ever ended up in jail for this “offence”, although some have for other matters unconnected with budgeting.

What our council needs is someone with the fire in their belly.

Step forward then Cllr Jim Bollan, pictured above right, of the Community Party, who told me tonight: “The Labour Council have confirmed they will propose a balanced budget on March the first.

“This will result in savage, unprecedented cuts to Council jobs and services of £21 million.

“Some services will close down, some will be cut back making them grossly inferior and hundreds of workers will be paid off.

“For a Labour Council to carry out cuts for the Tory Government is shameful and demonstrates a callous disregard for the most vulnerable in our communities.
“Labour are also moving to slash council workers’ Terms & Conditions, to help to pay for these Tory inflicted cuts.
“The Community Party called in December 2022 for a needs based budget to be set and defy the cuts from the Tories.
“None of the 22 councillors was elected to implement Tory cuts, but there was no support from Labour or the SNP. No backbone to fight for the people who elected us.
“Enough is enough. We should set a needs based budget and lead a campaign with the Council Trades Unions, Community Groups, and get off our knees and fight instead of capitulating when the local communities need us most.”

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