Budget Proposal from The Reform Group

The following press release was issued this morning to the local newspapers and privately funded adverts will appear in them over the next several days. The full budget paper can be downloaded at the link below. This can still be the subject of change between now and 11 February, the day on which the council budget needs to be agreed. If you have comments or alternative proposals, please feel free to make these.

BUDGET PAPER DOWNLOAD>   budget paper 20 january 16

ARGYLL & BUTE COUNCIL

REFORM GROUP PRESS RELEASE

For immediate use

The Reform Group on Argyll & Bute Council (Cllrs Dance, Breslin and Marshall) have been working on an alternative budget for some time and we are now pleased to make this public.

Council officers have still to make some final comments on technical aspects of our budget but we release this now because the broad thrust of our proposals will not alter even if some elements of it do. It is also released now to allow anyone reading it to make comment on it as there is time to amend it before the council meeting on 11 February where the council budget will be agreed.

The council’s Service Choices process is widely accepted as being flawed. Audit Scotland criticised it in their recent Best Value report but the council administration’s budget proposals will be based on that flawed and visionless process. Our view is that their proposals will be damaging to our area.

Our alternative budget proposes radical reform of the council by:

  • Decentralising the council to the 4 area committees to the maximum possible extent and thereby making decision making local again as well as service delivery.
  • Reducing the corporate management costs of the council by some £1.4m.
  • Reducing unnecessary travel to and from Kilmory through decentralisation and a greatly increased use of technology.
  • Initiating a ground up review of all budgets from April this year by involving local staff, service users and our customers, the business and people of Argyll & Bute.
  • Moving the council over the next year to a position where year on year cuts after that will not be necessary based on current forecasts.

The reduction in funding means we need to save £10m+ in the coming year. Our budget achieves this and the full detail is attached. The contacts for any queries are:

 

Cllr Michael Breslin

michael.breslin@argyll-bute.gov.uk          01369 707 165

Cllr Vivien Dance

vivien.dance@argyll-bute.gov.uk               01436 658 780

Cllr Bruce Marshall

bruce.marshall@argyll-bute.gov.uk           01369 707 154

20 January 2016

Author: Michael Breslin

I am no longer a councillor with Argyll & Bute Council but given the appalling treatment I got from the senior officers and a few elected members, I plan to continue keeping an eye on what the council is doing.

6 thoughts on “Budget Proposal from The Reform Group”

  1. A well researched piece of work showing how a radical approach to the running of local government can save money and be more democratic. Perhaps Welsh and Co will take heed.

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  2. Mike. Congratulation to you, Vivien Dance and Bruce Marshall for doing such a sterling job of proving to all the Councillors that there is an alternative option to the Proposed Budget. It is certainly very interesting reading and I hope that the others councillors will see the logic of what is proposed and support the recommendations.

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  3. I am dissappointed with how you are addressing the area of Waste Management. Helensborough is the only area of Argyll & Bute that must have food waste collection under current legislation, it would be better to explore how social enterprise may deliver the service more effectively and reduce costs through efficienct process and retention of waste value than move in the opposite direction of Zero Waste Strategy. The same principle applies to 3 weekly general refuse – the current proposal includes taking recycling services in-house which significant impact on social enterprises delivering these services not to mention all the benefits derived from this solution. This proposal will not save money and will not ensure savings and indeed social, economic and environmental benefits are achieved long term. There is also the Recycling Code of Practice to consider. A longer term strategy on waste management is required which works collaboratively with existing social enterprise. There are hugs benefits to achieve in adopting a Zero Waste Strategy that go beyond simple and expensive waste management. I urge you to relook at this and think again.

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  4. This response is from former councillor Brian Chennell who wishes to make it clear the views are his own and not those of Dunoon Youth Football League or its committee:

    Councillor M.Breslin
    Argyll & Bute Council 22nd January 2016
    Dear Michael,

    I have read with interest your proposed budget proposals, and agree with them, in that the savings proposed would not only be better suited, but conform more readily with point 2 of the Single Outcome Agreement of “having an infrastructure that supports sustainable growth”.

    As you are aware, the three community councils of Helensburgh, Dunoon, and Rothesay recently made representation to Councillors Walsh and Mulvenny, for a review, leading to reduction, in costs of council hire costs, particularly relating to pitches and hall hires for sports clubs.

    Councillor Walsh responded by saying that he did not believe a review was necessary on this matter, and quoted figures that were not based on reality ( ie dividing costs by 22 players when under SYFA rules the home team pays costs, thereby cost to be divided by 11 players)

    Clr Mulvenny responded by saying that the community councils’ and my request for a review would be considered at the budget, however when then asked by me as to what weight would be given to this request compared to the responses of the public consultation on budget proposals (since sport was not mentioned in the consultation), there has been no response from Clr Mulvenny.

    This week I received from the council a copy of a four page double-sided and in full colour brochure entitled “Be Active…Be Healthy…Be Sporty 2015-2019” which contains various bullet points “which will provide the focus and strategic approach to ensure that Argyll & Bute Council continues to maintain and develop services to improve the overall sport outcomes, health, fitness and general wellbeing of our communities.”
    It then goes on with bullet point statements such as,
    • INVOLVEMENT- we involve our communities to plan, prioritise, develop and maintain sport and leisure opportunities.
    • We encourage and enable the inactive to be more active
    • We encourage the active to stay more active
    • Children and young people have the best possible start
    • People live active, healthier and independent lives
    • Support sports clubs to enable accessible and sustainable sports provision in communities
    • Adopt strategic approach for increased membership of local clubs engaged in Community Sports Hubs
    • Ensure local sports clubs are recognised and rewarded
    • Engage with partners to maximise opportunities to access sport and physical activity. Sport and physical activity opportunities are accessible, inclusive, AFFORDABLE, and financially viable
    • Increase participation in physical activity and sport for all age ranges which contributes towards improved health outcomes
    • Increase resources targeted towards the physical inactive among our population through increase in numbers of previously inactive people engaging in sport and physical activity
    • Access to outdoor environments and green spaces
    • Consult regularly with clubs and communities for feedback on service improvements to suit their needs….ensure customers are fully engaged to address issues which directly affect them.
    • Increase participation and customer satisfaction across all service programmes

    The leaflet ends with
    1/ a quote from NHS “ the key aim is to enhance partnership working to support a greater proportion of the population to be physically active” PHYSICAL ACTIVE STATEMENT 2014
    2/ Promote and maintain environments which support rather than hinder physical activit.
    3/ Facilitate greater partnership working and effective communication.
    By the way, the brochure foreword expressing delight at introducing all the above ( and much more) was signed by Clr Robin Currie, Policy Lead Community, Culture and Housing.

    It is realised that there are budget problems and restraints, however ALL the above apparently earnest aims, are outdone by one single outcome from last year’s budget…..ie an ill-conceived increase on hire charges to sports facilities users, these increases based on incorrect and unsubstantionated figures and statements produced by officers in council papers

    Of course the question comes as to where savings could be made in lieu of reducing hire costs to a more affordable level.

    This is difficult to address as lead officers in their responses to emails have been unable to actually identify costs and money received from hires. If they are unable to identify actual costs and hire receipts, how can any possible loss incurred be established, especially by members of the public who are not privy to such information. The officers have stated that in fact utilisation of the facilities has increased since the budget last year, however the actual main increase in hire costs do not come into effect until April this year. Already I know of some clubs who are concerned of the reduction in their numbers possibly leading to disbandment of their club, and they expressed this at a recent meeting attended by representative of the Sports Hub. So much therefor for increasing participation

    If however I have to make a suggestion as to how savings could be made in lieu of reduction of hire costs, then perhaps the following could be considered,
    a) Those “senior” Councillors who took the recent voluntary increase in pay, now stop taking this increase.
    b) Since wards were reduced from 36 to 12, reduce number of councillors to 2 per ward (some councillors do not fully integrate with their community, nor fully participate in debates and council decisions, and a reduction in numbers would ensure “better value” to communities)
    c) Reduction in hire costs with particular emphasis on under 18s
    d) Investigate/negotiate with Scottish Government the possibility of giving council grant for sports to be ring fenced for this purpose by council ( MSP Michael Russell has informed me that Councillor Walsh would probably not accept ring fenced monies but perhaps this possibility could be investigated further)
    e) Investigate/negotiate with HMRC regarding vat for sports facilities hires etc ( yes reduction is presently given for 10 block bookings but ONLY if these paid in advance by clubs)

    I apologise for this long worded response, but it is of great concern to me that no one from Leader of Councillor to lead officers of the council are apparently listening and more importantly, acting upon genuine concerns expressed by sports facility users, such as Rugby, Football, Shinty clubs, Community Councils, parents, children, and adult users of facilities, to the detriment of all these, and against the principles of the Council’s own Single Outcome Agreements, the Scottish Government and the NHS.
    I hope the concerns expressed by many and myself are taken into consideration and that Hire costs can be made at an affordable cost to all.

    Regards,
    Brian Chennell

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