“Unacceptable” cuts criticised

Councillor David May.

Councillor David May.

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An Angus councillor has hit out at the Scottish Government for the “unacceptable” cuts the local authority has had to make this year.

Montrose member David May said that while the Government is to blame for the £10 million worth of cuts agreed at yesterday’s budget-setting meeting, he also criticised senior council figures for accepting the terms of the settlement.

The budget, which was agreed after just a 45-minute discussion in Town and County Hall, Forfar, also included the loss of 170 full-time council jobs.

Mr May said: “The SNP government are, in my view, implementing an austerity budget and it’s our council that are having to make what I belive are huge unacceptable cuts in the services we offer to our residents.

“I cannot understand why our council SNP representative at COSLA found the Swinney settlement to be acceptable or, as has been reported in the press, our council leadership found it to be merely disappointing. The council leadership should tell that to the 170 staff that are to lose their jobs.”

No alternative budget was put forward at last Thursday’s meeting, as is the usual procedure, but 10 opposition members recorded their opposition to plans that will include a charge for the collection of garden rubbish, a reduction in the subsidy for school music tuition and add a 25 pence per week increase to the community alarm charge.

The spending proposals also include a £500,000 saving from the review of housing support/sheltered housing, which has proved to be controversial with tenants and their families, which will result in the loss of 28 jobs although the authority is continuing to investigate alternative means of providing a tenancy support service.

The options being considered are a council scheme fully funded by sheltered housing tenants, a new social enterprise or an arm’s length trading organisation.

Mr May continued: “In my view the settlement is not merely disappointing it is disastrous and we are being bullied to accept the council tax freeze. Due to this settlement we are being forced to make cuts in key services such as school budgets, vocational training, support to schools and support for the elderly.

“It is clear that our council officers and councillors have done their best to protect front line services but it is clear that key services to the Angus residents are now being affected.

“I have always been an advocate of the key role that pubic services need to play to protect the elderly and vulnerable and to give our young people the best possible chance in life However, it is evident that the Scottish government have faced a real terms cut in their budget by only 1 per cent and they have cut our council revenue budget by 5.1 per cent in real terms and our capital budget by 6.6 per cent in real terms. This austerity settlement means our council are having to make unacceptable cuts in services.”