SNP slam council’s spending plans

The Scottish National Party (SNP) group on South Ayrshire Council have heavily criticised the budget plans which were approved on Thursday.

SNP group leader Douglas Campbell outlined many areas in which he thinks the council’s Conservative and Labour coalition have simply got it wrong on the major issues.

The member for Ayr North accused the coalition of ducking out yet again of making big decisions when it comes to balancing the books.

The budget from the coalition delivers a balanced budget in 2014 before running deficits of £5.27m in 2015/2016 and a deficit of £8.278m in 2016/17.

However, Councillor Campbell criticised the coalition for failing to take the big decisions after being presented with £36m of cuts by officers in November.

He said that the SNP considered the options available and also presented a balanced budget for next year before lesser deficits of £507,000 for 2015/2016 and £1.469m for 2016/17.

Councillor Campbell said: “If you already have £36m of cuts available what else are officers supposed to do if the administration can’t even make a decision on this.

“They say they have priorities so surely it must be easy to pick what you want to do. The purpose of three year budgeting is to allow officers to implement change over a period of time, based on priorities and that staff know the direction of travel.

“Yet again this administration cannot step up to the mark and deliver and yet again officers will be trading water.”

At the meeting on Thursday, Council leader Bill McIntosh used his summing up speech to criticise the SNP group leader for seemingly not enjoying having money in the bank.

However, Campbell slammed McIntosh for not agreeing to the SNP’s proposals which would have seen an extra £360,000 taken from the council’s reserves on top of the adminstration’s proposals.

Campbell commented: “For Bill McIntosh to say that we were squandering his beloved reserves by using £360k more than in his budget is a pretty sad reflection on where we are in this council.”

One of the most notable disagreements between the administration and the council was the agreement to increase rent on council properties by 5.2% which was agreed by councillors in 2011.

Administration members were quick to point out that Campbell was part of the administration that agreed those increases, but the SNP leader hit back and defended his party’s proposals to set increases at 3.7%.

“I think it’s fair to say that most tenants are going to say that even 3.7% is too much but it’s as though some Councillors haven’t realised that things have changed and how hard pressed everybody is.

“Most people in poverty are now in employment and that’s why rent arrears are increasing.

“It must be great to live in the sleepy hollow that some South Ayrshire councillors inhabit.”

Councillor Campbell also questioned why £1m was being cut from services to help children and older people with needs and learning disabilites when the council can’t meet the demand right now.