The SNP’s amendment to the Falkirk Council Labour / Tory budget concentrates on “protecting the most vulnerable” according to SNP Group Leader, Cllr Cecil Meiklejohn.
The Nationalist leader is angry at a number of areas of policy direction by the council’s ruling Administration and believe that some of the poorest and most vulnerable are being unfairly targeted for additional charges or cuts in essential services.
The SNP point to an increase of Meals on Wheels charges for recipients by a whopping 45% as an example of where the current coalition Administration have got their priorities badly wrong.
The SNP moved an alternative budget that sought to freeze charges for services such as Homecare and Meals on Wheels as well as scrapping proposals to charge adults with learning difficulties for transport to day centres.
The SNP also sought to retain free swimming lessons to all p5 children believing they save lives and have opposed a greater role for the Private Sector in the delivery of Homecare believing this to be the thin end of the wedge towards privatisation.
In addition the SNP also sought to,
Stop changes in letting costs of the four high schools build under the previous SNP led administration where community groups have been given concessionary rates.
Maintain grants to agencies responsible for supporting victims of abuse.
Scrap Administration plans to increase Burial and Cremation Services by 13% and allow a 2% inflation only increase.
Proposals to increase childcare costs have also being targeted by the SNP argue this discriminates against women in particular.
Labour’s proposals to cut Support Staff from schools and stop redundancies within the Education Service.
The SNP also want the council to investigate the use of Hydro Power to create opportunities for community benefits and have proposed additional money to advance the building the next phase of the Denny Eastern Access Road.
These amendments costing just short of £1m was to be paid for, almost completely by committing the full projected underspend of £2.2m for this financial year, the current Administration want to commit only £1.5m of the £2.2m.
The balance was to be clawed back from the Falkirk Leisure Trust who have been awarded the highest increase in funding, a hopping 5.3% despite the fact the private Leisure Trust was established three years to save the council money.
Said Cllr Cecil Meiklejohn,
“Wednesday was a tale of two budgets, one produced by the Labour / Tory coalition that contains more misery for those already suffering from the Westminster cuts and an easily affordable SNP alternative that eases the pain for thousands who deserve better than they are receiving from Labour and their Tory partners.
Their budget demonstrates how out of touch Labour have become with the needs of those they as a party used to claim they stood for while the Tories, whose influence is clear in this budget, have never been in touch with the people of Falkirk
The vast majority of the SNP Groups proposals could have been paid for by simply spending the money they had already been committed this year but not spent, for whatever reason.
The Scottish Government have been successful in protecting services such as Free Personal Care for the elderly and have increased the percentage of local government’s share of the national budget and have done so by investing in priority areas.
In contrast the Labour / Tory Administration in Falkirk have squirreled away much of the additional money allocated to them by the Scottish Government to the extent uncommitted reserves have risen from £5.2m to £14m since the current Administration came to power in 2007, a rise of 166%.
At a time when so many of our people are suffering at the hands of the UK Tory Government it is criminal that Labour Councillors should seek to make life even more difficult for pensioners, disabled people, victims of abuse, young families, community groups and those generally suffering from the effects of the recession.”
The SNP alternative budget was defeated by a single vote, 16 votes to 15 with 13 SNP Councillors being joined by Independent Coucilors, Bob Spears and Brian McCabe. Labour’s 13 members were supported by the 2 Tories with the effective casting vote being made by the former Independent, Billy Buchanan.
Said Cllr Meiklejohn,
“The SNP gave Labour a real alternative to their menu of despair. They could have saved the people of Falkirk District, particularly the vulnerable groups who will suffer most, they chose not to.”