There was disappointment within the communities of Falkirk district that the SNP alternative budget was rejected by Labour and Tory Councillors acting together.
SNP proposals would have seen, for example,
- The abolition of the unfair charges on elderly and disabled people for essential services like Homecare and MECS,
- Money for the regeneration of village centres such as Bonnybridge, Bainsford and Slamannan.
- A jobs and training fund to get young people into work
- The retention of all public libraries on their existing hours of opening
- The abolition of fees for the renewal of disabled people’s blue badge scheme.
- The freezing of school meal and leisure facility prices
- The implementation of the Living Wage campaign
Speaking after the budget meeting SNP Group Leader, David Alexander said,
“For the first time ever the opposition SNP Group were denied any detailed information about the proposed Labour / Tory budget until three working days before it was debated.
Despite this the SNP produced an alternative budget that was socially just at a time when the London cuts are seriously damaging the fabric of our society.
We learned that Labour and the Tories are so close together politically that they share the same philosophy and that is bad news for those who need help most.”
The full SNP amendment to the Revenue Budget is as follows,
12.1 It is recommended that council
12.a approve the Revenue Budget with the following amendments to bring about fairness and equality as well as tackling poverty.
- Savings from the non publication of Speak Easy and other council internal publications – £15,000
- Reduction in the number of Falkirk Council News editions to two per year – £25,000
- Replacement of coffee, tea and biscuits in members lounge to a pay service £12,500
- Increased use of unbudgeted for reserves due to recent decision by Central Scotland Fire Board on pensions (£750,000) and additional grant from Scottish Government of £318,000 for winter maintenance – £1,068,000
- Recurring part of £1.5m, the projected under spend for the current year, estimated to be £600,000
- Reduction in Advertising based on updated information on 2010/11 figures, £25,000
- Projected improvement on the council’s position between January and end of year position based on past trends, a conservative estimate of £400,000 saving.
- Council Tax collection rates average 98% over recent years where as the budgeted figure is 97.5%. Revise collection target up by 0.5% to match actual performance and increase budget figures by £360,000.
Total savings identified £2,505,500
To be allocated as follows in the expenditure sections,
- Income estimates for Social Work charges are plummeting while collection costs are spiralling. Add in £1,060,000 to the budget and cancel the charges being levied (estimated Income £1,300,000 – estimated costs of collection £240,000, net amount £1,060,000.
- Abolish charges for the renewal of Blue Badge scheme, to protect the interests of disabled people, cost, £50,000
- Abolish charges for Residential Pest Control as these charges are unfair and penalise those with least most, cost, £30,000
- Reinstate and upgrade allowances paid to Day Centre clients, cost £26,500
- Reinstate current year budgets to all Voluntary Sector with a modest increase of £1,408 for CAB in recognition for the role they play in tackling poverty and disadvantage, cost £200,000.
- Retain the existing opening hours in public libraries and Play Schemes in recognition of the role libraries play in dealing with inequality and providing educational opportunities, cost £196,000
- Support in principle and begin the implementation of the Living Wage policy promoted by the STUC, cost , £165,000
- Freeze School Meal charges at current rate – cost £120,000
- Restore free school meals to Carrongrange pupils, cost, £20,000
- Retain dedicated head teachers in all schools thus maintaining equality of educational opportunities in all schools, cost £68,000
- Allocate £300,000 from the Fairer Scotland fund topped up by an additional £200,000 from the Revenue Budget to form a Jobs and Training Fund, cost £200,000
- Fund for the regeneration of town, village and community centres, cost, £200,000
- Freeze sports centre and other leisure charges to encourage greater take up following the 15% rise in charges in the current year, cost, £120,000
- Additional revenue for the Parks Strategy specifically targeted at Zetland Park, cost £50,000
- Allocate the relevant proportion of the additional £592,000 allocated by the Scottish Government specifically for flooding projects towards the development of a Sea Defence Strategy for Blackness, cost neutral.
Total – £2,505,500
12b As printed on the council agenda until 12d which should read,
Falkirk Council’s scrutiny processes are undertaken by all 32 Councillors, as per Audit Scotland guidance. Council therefore agrees that in paragraph 5.1 officers will recognise the need to achieve Best Value and will undertake to act within the guidance of the council’s committee structures.