Joint statement pledges support for those likely to be affected and calls for “cool heads and clear minds” to find a way out of crisis created by Council administration
In a joint statement on the “Service Choices” proposals which Argyll & Bute Council issued today as an appendix to a paper for next week’s Policy & Resources Committee, Argyll & Bute Constituency MSP Michael Russell, Argyll & Bute MP Brendan O’Hara and Highland Regional MSP Mike MacKenzie have commented as follows:
“These are a devastating and brutal set of proposals, which have been slipped out hidden away in a mass of other Council papers rather than openly presented to local people.
We agree with the Trades Unions that if these cuts were to go ahead they would render the Council not only unable to meet its core commitments but also unable to fulfil its statutory duties.
Today the Council leadership has presented to the people of its area a bleak picture of their future – one in which children in most need will get the least help, in which the streets go uncleaned, in which lollipop men and women, music instructors, janitors , classroom helpers, librarians and special needs assistants are all cast on the scrap heap, in which slower not faster broadband is provided in schools, in which museums close and Council services get worse and more expensive, in which charities providing essential help to the most vulnerable cannot survive, in which it costs more and more to be buried or cremated, in which refuse goes uncollected and grass uncut and in which even the Christmas lights are switched off.
These plans make a special mockery of the repeated pledge by Council Leader Dick Walsh that reversing depopulation was his number one priority. In reality these proposals will, by the Council’s own admission result in up to 1000 jobs being lost over the next few years. This area has very few employment alternatives available so depopulation will get even worse.
The so called “service choices” process was meant to provide a new start by re-imagining the way in which the Council helped the people of the area. Instead what has appeared after months of secretive meetings is a desperately cobbled together list of random but very damaging salami slices of essential council services.
It also beggars belief that a Council of any sort could on the one hand be appointing new staff to posts in Education Management and Strategic Transport whilst at the same time proposing to lay off Special Needs Assistants, Music Instructors, School Librarians, and janitors. That approach shows a casual and callous disregard for the most vulnerable. It also shows how ill thought out these “choices” are, with no co-ordination between Council departments in the scramble to find cuts. For example Dunoon Grammar School is presently advertising for a full time “Attendance Officer” the Council is proposing to get rid of all such employees. That is simply one of the chaotic and contradictory elements in the package.
The Tory Government at Westminster has created financial difficulties for the Scottish Government and every Scottish public body . The Scottish Government has fully funded the Council tax freeze as new figures confirmed this week and has done its very best to support local government spending. Argyll & Bute has in response done nothing to prepare its services for change , has failed to meet its core objectives and has mismanaged its resources . What is now being proposed is the outcome of that abject failure.
We can confirm that the SNP will be working to support local people and council employees threatened by this appalling, destructive process . We are glad that the trades unions have taken such a strong stance and we are keen to work with them and many others to develop a new vision for Argyll & Bute, something that is now urgently required.
What is now obvious is that we will all need cool heads and clear minds to find a way forward for Argyll & Bute after the mess that Dick Walsh and his administration have made. He and those supporting him have placed the council in severe jeopardy and those who live the Council area in desperate fear of the future. They should hang their heads in shame.”
Link to cuts information: http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=544&MId=6816&Ver=4