There were no big surprises as councillors met in Kilmory yesterday (Thursday) to set the region’s budget.
As we predicted two weeks ago, Council Tax for homes in Argyll and Bute will rise by three per cent, and council fees and charges will increase across the area by a similar amount, A savings option to add a further eight per cent to the cost of burials and cremations was rejected be members.
Council tax for a dwelling in Band “D” will now be £1,408.76.
With the local elections a few weeks away it was a cautious budget, and communications from the council focus on good news.
“We listen to our communities. This budget invests in what people tell us matters most to them.” said council leader Robin Currie.
Councillor Currie added: “We are increasing investment in our road network again. We are investing in services that support responsible tourism, such as litter bins and public toilets. We are supporting local businesses by investing in the staycation economy, and encouraging ‘shopping local’ with free Christmas parking. We are dedicating one of our biggest, single investments to our schools and wider learning estate; and we are investing in action to tackle climate change.”
The budget closes a £2.2M funding gap for the coming financial year, but delays cuts of more than £30M which will are predicted to be needed in the three years after that.
The budget proposed by the area’s ruling group of Conservative, Liberal Democrat and some independent councillors received 20 votes to the SNP opposition group’s 13.
These were the only two proposals put forward at the virtual council meeting on Thursday, February 24. Lomond North Independent Councillor George Freeman registered no vote.
Funding to assist with the maintenance and extension of Argyll and Bute’s cemeteries formed part of the rejectedSNP proposal.
The SNP group on the council also proposed a fund to support tourism businesses in the area in their recovery from the pandemic.
Isle of Bute independent councillor Jean Moffat was one of the two independents and remarked favourably on proposed funding for Bute Advice Centre and Live Argyll.
Referring to residents who make use of local leisure facilities, she said: “I can’t tell you the difference it made when the [swimming] pool had to close. It caused them a bit of emotional and physical harm.
“Things are going back to what we would like to see, and it is very important that Live Argyll and Bute Advice Centre get extra help.”
She and Mid Argyll independent councillor Douglas Philand voted for the SNP group’s budget proposal along with all 11 of the area’s SNP councillors, but were outvoted by the ruling group’s proposal.