West Dunbartonshire’s ruling Labour Administration have cut more than £4m of public services including, £300,000 from refuse collection and municipal waste sites and more than £1.6m coming from Education with no public consultation.
Furthermore, a blanket 10% increase on all fees and charges has been implemented including multiple increases for Social Care service users and other vulnerable groups, again without public consultation or even consultation with those who will be directly impacted by these unaffordable increases.
The previous consultation on the public’s priorities for Council spending expired in March 2022, with a new consultation expected between December 2022 and mid-February 2023.
It was confirmed at the December Council meeting that the Labour Administration have no plans to consult on a further £16+ million of cuts they will make to Council services at the budget meeting on March 1st 2023.
Parents were notified in November that Education savings options were to be discussed at December Council, but no opinion on any of the proposals was sought or accepted by the Labour Administration, leaving parents, pupils teachers and other school staff unable to influence elected representatives in the decision making process.
Speaking after the meeting, SNP Finance Spokesperson, Cllr Ian Dickson said,
“There was simply no need or even an attempt at justification for making these cuts right before Christmas. It’s unprecedented that a Council would make major budget decisions involving huge cuts to Council services without any public consultation at all.
“This coming year’s budget is the most challenging West Dunbartonshire has ever faced and we need to speak to our communities and hear what their priorities are so we can make measured, responsible and informed decisions.
“Labour have been running the Council like a dictatorship since they were elected in May; excluding the opposition from the process is anti-democratic and excluding the public who elect you into office from even expressing an opinion is a dangerous way to govern.”
SNP Leader, Cllr Karen Conaghan added,
“From day one, all West Dunbartonshire Labour have talked about is power and control, and now we have a very public demonstration of that in operation. No public consultation, no thought for what our communities want or need, just power and control exercised and the rest of us must take whatever pain is inflicted. I’ve never seen anything like it in West Dunbartonshire, or any Scottish Council.”
SNP Depute Leader, Cllr Gordon Scanlan Added,
“Labour are fully responsible for the damage they have caused today. Nobody was consulted. Not other Councillors and unforgivably, not our communities. The not so Democratic Republic of Rooney is all about power and control. Their rule is absolute, and they want and will accept absolutely no input from the public or anyone else.”
[SNP Amendment follows]
SNP Amendment – Item 10 (Financial Update)
Council agrees the recommendations at 2.1 of the report with the following exceptions/caveats:
b) Council does not have enough information at this time to determine whether it would be appropriate for a proportion of the £4.748m of Scottish Government funding provided as a contribution to the 2022/23 pay award to be passed through to the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP). Council is aware that the HSCP may be in a position to fund this pressure from reserves, which may be a better option given the extreme pressure on Council budgets. Officers should provide narrative and options around this to allow members to make an informed decision at the March 2023 budget meeting.
e) Council does not agree that it is appropriate to increase the prudential reserve at a time when we must maximise spending on public services, therefor the £1.75m referred to will transfer to the general reserve for elected members to decide how best to make use of this money as part of the March 2023 budget meeting.
f) Council does not agree any of the proposed saving options at this time and instead agrees that as the last public consultation feedback has expired, a new consultation be carried out during January & February on all savings options, or as was done previously, on public priorities for spending by service area, to allow elected members to deliver on the needs and wishes of the citizens we were elected to serve.
i) Approve the use of the one off benefit associated with the Service Concessionary Financial Flexibility as a recovery plan to restore the Council’s reserves to be in line with, or above, the Council’s prudential target of 2%.
MOVED BY CLLR IAN DICKSON
SECONDED BY CLLR KAREN CONAGHAN