SNP REACTION TO LOCAL COVERAGE OF FALKIRK COUNCIL BUDGET

municipal buildingsThe last three editions of the Falkirk Herald have been dominated by Falkirk Council’s budget issues but has the coverage been balanced?

The edition dated 5 February gave extensive details of the Labour Tory Administration’s proposals from the papers published two days previously. The article quoted SNP Group Leader, Cllr Cecil Meiklejohn, who pointed out the fact the SNP had only just receive the papers and work was ongoing to produce an alternative budget.

With the budget meeting on the same day the next edition went to press, Wednesday 11th, a copy of the SNP’s alternative budget was presented to the paper ahead of the budget meeting for anticipated coverage in the following day’s edition.  However, coverage of the debate and division in the vote was missing from the paper published on 12 February.

Once again, in anticipation of some balance in the coverage a press release was issued, see background paper 2 below. The paper also had a bank of quotes from the meeting itself but carried nothing of holding a copy of the SNP proposals for the previous week.

Sadly the Falkirk Herald decided not to publish any of the above and instead gave the Administration a major feature piece that lacked any opposition input what so ever therefore lacked balance.

Surely the people of Falkirk district are entitled to know that an alternative was offered, that a vote actually took place, 17 to 14 proving the budget proposals were opposed and which way people’s own representatives voted?

In addition to the above the newspaper could have dipped into ay number of associated issues and produced an entire edition of stories such as;

 

  • Dennis Goldie describing his own group leader’s comments on withdrawal from COSLA as “mealy mouthed” then ducking the vote that followed his outburst.
  • The Administration rejecting an SNP amendment that would have helped to reverse the council’s increasing levels of Greenhouse Gases.
  • The admission from Provost Reid that the figures for the 2016/17 figures could not be relied on, the example being the omission of around £500,000 projected income from the Falkirk Leisure Trust.
  • The refusal of the Administration to back Railway Stations in Grangemouth and Bonnybridge.

For the benefit of any doubt we have published the SNP amendment in it’s entirety in Appendix 1

Appendix 1

SNP Group Alternative Budget 2015/16

Revue Budget

Amendment

12) add, with the following amendments       listed below”

Additional savings,

  • Add £120,000 to the estimated profit to bring the 2015/16 figure closer to the 2014/15 estimated profit. Increased income to be derived from increased efficiencies on quality of work carried out and best use of time.
  • Increase the target of Council Tax receipts by £60,000, in relation to new housing coming on stream
  • Reduce by one the number of issues of The Falkirk Council News and reduce other in-house publications for a total saving of £20,000.
  • Anticipated reduction in the current financial year following directives to departments, total, £120,000, which will increase reserves and can be then be applied
  • Increase use of Earmarked Reserves, by £50,000 to a less conservative target.
  • Cancel all newspapers for the Members Lounge and review the wider purchase of newspapers against savings from on-line access saving an estimated £6k
  • PPP & NPDO arrangements based on past performance and market value the figure of £750,000 is a conservative estimate. The council should be seeking a settlement close to or better than that of the previous Administration and so a modest increase of £100,000 to £850,000 sets a more ambitious tone.

Falkirk Council required a full review of management structures to determine whether or not we are fit to meet the challenges of the Westminster Governments austerity programme. Council therefore agrees to see such a review with appropriate consultations

Additional Spend

Retain existing Social Work Transport to protect vulnerable and low income groups and individuals, cost £50,000.

  • Scrap proposals to levy a £5 a week charge for new elderly Day Care applicants, cost £28,000.
  • Retain in-house services and cease the rolling privatisation of Home Care, cost £37,000.
  • Community Halls are often the main or only social outlet within communities and have a value above financial. Scrap the intended closure programme, £20,000.
  • Freeze School Meals charges, to promote a social agenda, cost £100,000.
  • School lets play an important equality and social inclusion role and as such require to be affordable. We therefore propose the scrapping of the 3% increase and reverse the 2014/15 price hike, cost £44,000.
  • Freeze Childcare Fees to better align in direction with Scottish Government policy, cost £15,000
  • Freeze Breakfast Club charges, cost £5,000.
  • Recent history shows that charges for Pest Control can not be justified and were scrapped after only a short period by the council. Remove charges from the budget, £39,000.
  • The introduction of charges for all Special Uplifts will lead to less recycling and more fly tipping and is therefore a false economy with grossly over estimated financial gains and no concept of increased costs. By maintaining 2 free uplifts the council will not incur these additional for fly tipping and contamination of recyclets. The balance in terms of loss of income be believe would be around £115,000
  • Retention of the CLD office in Bo’ness as the main hub for people looking for work £10,000
  • In recognition of the valuable service provided by Citizens Advice Bureaux in helping to assist those affected most by the Westminster Austerity agenda an additional £13, 000 to allocated and shared between them

Recommendations

12b. i) as per report

ii) as per the report

12c notes the administration’s proposals for 2016/17 however there is in sufficient information available to approve. It is therefore proposed that a twice yearly financial performance report for each of the services is reviewed by the Performance Panel enabling greater scrutiny and monitoring of individual service budgets.

12 d agree that any shortfalls in savings proposals or issues that arise from the Equality & Poverty Impact assessment process are reported back to members for consideration.

12e To be referred back to council any proposed redundancies and representation from the trade unions following the review of management structures and the seeking of voluntary severance.

12f Members request that any imposition of the change of terms and conditions be the subject of a report to members before any formal action is taken bearing in mind council ethos of cooperation with staff groups

12g agree as per report

12h. agree as per the report

12 i cannot agree to note the work of the Business Transformation project as members have not been provided with details on this. It is therefore agreed to bring a full report on the Business Transformation Project to March full Council and its implications for service provision.

12J agree as per the report

12 K following the Chief Executives Report on review of the number of services it naturally follows that there should be a review of management structures in all departments. The Chief Executive there therefore request to bring a further report forward to May Full Council

12L Council reserves should be consolidated in to a single fund to which services would require to place bids in order to access additional funds.

12M. as existing 12K but add amended budget to the existing recommendation

 General Capital Programme

At the time of approving the draft Trust Budget not all information regards the whole council budget was available to members. Therefore on reflection Councils therefore agreed to reduce the capital spend to the Trust, while a new ticketing system would be nice and is desirable it is not essential as there is an existing system in place and would not provide an additional revenue stream for the Council.  Therefore remove £280 for the ICT project and reallocate as follows

New Rail Stations

Council recognised that the previous proposal for Bonnybridge and Grangemouth Railway Stations, as a result of the electrification, time tabling impediment to progressing them has now been removed.

This project would enable the station building to be leased to Network Rail creating an income stream to the Council. This would create economic benefits to each of the towns of Bonnybridge and Grangemouth and in turn to the wider council area.

Council therefore agrees to allocate £100k for STAG reports to be carried out, a business case produced as well as architectural designs developed. It is noted that there is an opportunity for a funding bid to SG through Transport Scotland Stations Development Fund, and instructs officers to urgently seek a meeting with civil servants to discuss.

Synthetic Pitches

£100K to be used for a staff resource by the Council as the lead agency to support and assist the junior football Clubs to become Community Clubs in the preparation of bids and develop the ethos similar to that used by Stenhousemuir FC.

Carriden Cemetery

£35K to be allocated to provide a secure and discrete boundary around Carriden Cemetery, recognising that the location is at a busy industrial access, the current boundary does not provide a respectful atmosphere fitting to relatives paying their last respects to their loved ones.

Dobbie Hall

£35k to progress the necessary repairs that are required to maintain this well used local facility.

Housing Revenue Account and Council House Rents

Recommendations

10.1 as pre report

10.2 agree a Rent Increase of 1.5% in line with inflation, be applied from 1st April 2015 helping those hard pressed working families who are being hit hardest by the current Westminster’s austerity agenda.  The average fortnightly charges to be adjusted accordingly with the balance to be drawn from reserves and efficiency savings.

10.3 as per report

10.4 as per the report

10.5 as per the report

10.6 as per the report

10.7 as per the report

Housing Investment Programme

Recommendations

8.1 As per the report with the addition of the following amendment

Enhance provision with in section 4.7 Priority Areas by £300, 000 to be taken from reserves under a spend to save initiative to develop a pilot project for installation of Photo Voltaic and/ or Thermal panels on suitable Council properties

This is in alignment with the SG energy efficiency policy and will provide lower fuel bills to the tenant and an income stream to the Council by selling back to the grid excess energy.

Appendix 2

Falkirk Council SNP Group Press Statement

SNP Reaction To Falkirk Council’s Labour / Tory Administration Budget

Quote from Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, SNP Group Leader,

““Once again we hear the same old song from the Labour / Tory Administration, ‘just give us more money but don’t try to hold us to account on what we spend.’

Before blaming the Scottish Government, Craig Martin should tell the people of Falkirk district how he managed to lose £6m in just three months.

The report brought to the Council on 12 November 2014 indicated a £40m black-hole over three years but less than three months later this has grown to £46m.

Questions of competence are being asked of the coalition leaders, particularly, Council leader Craig Martin and the Administration Financial spokesperson, Malcolm Nicol of the Conservative Party. Both leaders should either shape up or ship out as they have demonstrated an inability to do their jobs.

The target of the cuts, once again, are the most vulnerable within our community, clearly viewed as soft targets by the Labour/Tory coalition. However, you can not, year after year, increase the cost of services to the elderly and disabled people well above the rate of inflation before people start slipping through the safety net.

However, the most short sighted cut of all is the proposal to cut the education of children by two and a half hours a week.

The lack of ambition being shown with this proposal tells its own story but that shouldn’t be allowed to damage the future of our young people.”

 

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2 Responses to SNP REACTION TO LOCAL COVERAGE OF FALKIRK COUNCIL BUDGET

  1. ChickMcAteer says:

    a very interesting contrast to the budget proposals of Lab. /Tory coalition. I would be very interested to know of the reply if any to the “Black Hole”deficit in the short time frame. This is a must answer statement in my opinion. The lack of transparency throughout this joke of a budget without the input of opposition members is tantamount to DICTATORSHIP.

  2. Brian McCabe says:

    I have to disagree Chick. This is not Dictatorship but rather complete incompetence!
    £6 million lost in 3 months? I’m sorry, but questions have to be asked. Where are Audit Scotland in all of this? Surely they have a duty to verify these figures? It is the Council’s Budget after all. Where did the £6 million disappear to? That £6 million would pay for ALL prospective cuts, and some! No, there are seriously dodgy figures being bandied about, not by the Council’s Tory Financial Spokesperson I may add. He never spoke! Not a word. Not a jot!
    Well why would you? Labour are taking all the flak; Hell mend them; Carry on, We’re saying hee-haw.
    Craig Martin is ‘frit’ to say anything to Malcolm Nicol. If he does, there’s no coalition; no power; and no Labour in Falkirk for the next 20 years.
    Go Malcolm! Say nowt!
    Let your tail wag the Labour dog. Not too hard, the Administration might wake up!

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