Budget set to save council services

Wooden blocks with text Budget 2024

“This budget saves the services people use. Vital council services are protected from debilitating cuts and maintained for the communities who need them.”

Argyll and Bute Council today set a budget to address a £10 million+ gap in the council’s revenue budget for running services, and a nearly £30 million gap in its capital budget for infrastructure such as roads reconstruction programmes, harbour investment, regeneration projects, bridge maintenance, maintaining social care, education and Live Argyll properties, and weather recovery work.

Councillor Robin Currie, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council said:

“In all the years I’ve been a councillor, this has been the most difficult budget to set. We considered every option to save the council services and local jobs that communities need. We campaigned for fair council funding for Argyll and Bute with CoSLA. We identified nearly £4 million more savings without affecting services or jobs. We took steps to raise income such as doubling council tax on second homes. But Argyll and Bute still faced a multi-million pound budget gap that threatened the council services people use every day.

Our focus has to remain firmly on supporting people now, and on building the sustainable future we all want for Argyll and Bute. That focus cannot slip away in the face of severe and on-going budget gaps.

This service-saving budget is only possible with an increase in council tax. Council tax funds council services. Increasing council tax saves services.

It was a difficult decision to take but it is the responsible one. Council tax reduction benefits are there to help those in greatest need. And communities across the area can continue to rely on the council services and support they need.”

The budget provides funding for social care and Live Argyll services as well as for the full range of council services.

It also provides support for additional leisure, tourism, regeneration and other initiatives:

  • International Eight Metre Association World Cup – £10k
  • Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative – £75k
  • CHARTs (Culture, Heritage and Arts Assembly) – £75k
  • Screen Machine – £28k
  • Mid Argyll Community Pool – £30k
  • Mactaggart Leisure – Islay Pool – £30k
  • Environmental Warden Service increase – £45k
  • Cost of living support – £57k+ with proposals to be developed to support the Community Food Forum, ALIEnergy, Argyll and Bute Citizens Advice Bureau and Bute Advice Centre.

There will be no increase to school meal charges in 2024/25, and Council rejected proposals for phased reductions in third sector and community grants, and strategic events and festivals funding.

Councillor Gary Mulvaney, Policy Lead for Financial Services said:

“The Scottish Government funding settlement available to the council on the basis of a council tax freeze would have meant cuts to services. Decisions made today keep services going for our communities. Decisions made today keep investment going in Argyll and Bute’s future.”

Council Tax chargeable in Band ‘D’ is £1,627.12, an increase of 10%

Notes

  • The Scottish Government had announced a council tax freeze. However CoSLA, which campaigns for fair funding on behalf of councils, produced a budget reality analysis showing a £62.7 million cash cut to councils. Update: the Scottish Government late yesterday confirmed the intention to provide additional funding to local government, but subject to the UK Government Spring Budget. We understand that this may mean £1.1 million for Argyll and Bute but this cannot be guaranteed or relied upon until after the Spring Budget. .
  • Following recently received information about funding implications of the Mull Campus project, councillors agreed that no decision is made until further detail is available and reported to Council in April. In brief, through LEIP the Scottish Government would provide up to 50% of eligible costs, but recent estimates are that contribution to the overall project could be as low as 35%, with the Council required to make up the balance, pay the total cost up front (around £40 million), and interest on funding borrowed for this. This adds to the significant financial contribution required from the Council, so time will be taken for work to be done on potential financial models for delivering a campus.
  • The Council provisionally agreed funding to support the completion of Rothesay Pavilion subject to a follow-up report going to Council in May, with updates on additional funding sources and cost implications.

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