Feb 8 2013 By Jackie Grant, Dumfries Standard Friday
Tory and SNP councillors have been slammed for their immature tactics at yesterdays budget meeting.
Unaligned Councillor Willie Scobie said the administration and the Labour Group had an ideal opportunity to compromise and come up with an acceptable budget but failed to do so.
He claims the people who are going to suffer will be kinship carers and children in schools who require extra support.
A freeze on council tax for another year meant that s7.2 million savings had to be made.
At yesterdays meeting, the budget was set and seven full-time equivalent learning support teaching jobs will go. Despite their protests outside the council buildings before the meeting started, kinship carers will not receive an increase in allowances and 25 per cent will be slashed from the adult learning budget.
However, council leader Ivor Hyslop said the administrations budget will see investment in roads infrastructure and small business support, expand the councils graduate and apprenticeship schemes, increase the Living Wage to s7.50 an hour and continue to avoid compulsory redundancies.
He also publicly invited Dumfries Theatre Royal to enter discussions with the council on the release of £455,000 of capital funding ring-fenced for theatre provision in Dumfries.
He said: The administrations budget, supported by Independent councillors, strikes the right balance between making the savings we have to and, at the same time, continuing to invest in our region.
We have also allocated s1 million of extra funding to roads maintenance, concentrating on rural lifeline links and urban housing estates, which we intend will be made available to local contractors.
We have also removed altogether the charges for music tuition.
The current economic difficulties underpin everything we do. We cannot satisfy everyones aspirations.
But the Labour Group accused the coalition of being out of touch.
Group Leader Ronnie Nicholson said: The proposals from the Tory and SNP coalition to press ahead with cuts in teachers, adult education and failing to invest properly in road repairs shows just how hopelessly out of touch they are with the priorities of local people.
Every single Tory and SNP councillor will now need to face their communities and tell them that, as a direct result of their decisions, class sizes in their local schools will increase, the plague of potholes in roads in their area will get worse and some of the most vulnerable people in our community will simply be thrown on the scrapheap as direct result of their vindictive decision to decimate the adult education budget by 25 per cent.
No one disputes that as a result of cuts in funding from the UK and Scottish Government, the council has to make savings and that means tough choices.
But no group has a monopoly of wisdom when it comes to how to make savings and local people expect councillors to work together.
Whilst we welcome the decision of the coalition to adopt Labours proposal to consider investing in the Theatre Royal and to scrap music tuition fees, when we put any other alternatives to the council leader he said he wasnt interested in discussing them. He keeps claiming his door is always open. But his bullish behaviour shows he isnt prepared to listen.
Councillor Scobie added: As far as Im concerned there was no compromise in the Tory-SNP ranks because it would have been seen as a Labour budget. They should have been more mature.
This council again has totally ignored its responsibilities and has turned its back on kinship carers who are the lowest paid in society.
They should be ashamed of what they have done.