Letters extra: Cut non-statutory services

Argyll and Bute councillor George Freeman.

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Sir,

I have noted the concerns raised within communities across Argyll and Bute relating to certain cuts in services being proposed in the council’s upcoming budget, due to the Scottish Government’s ongoing massive cuts in funding.

As is often the norm, there are some high profile proposed budgets cuts that attract a great deal of public attention.

This year, one of these is the proposed cuts to the lollipop school crossing patrol service.

This has attracted much criticism with many people adding their names to petitions to save such services.

This is likely to be one of the proposals included in the budget papers to distract the public from all the other cuts.

Then, hey presto, money will be found at the last minute to save the service.

Given the secretive way budgets are dealt with, I may be wrong but, I would be most surprised if the school crossing patrols are not saved.

We are told that the priority for the council is to protect statutory services with funding taken from services that are non-statutory.

A major non-statutory service that the council continues to fund is Argyll Air Service and Oban Airport which provide air services to the islands of Coll, Colonsay and Tiree.

The service costs the council hundreds-of-thousands-of-pounds every year. The latest indications are that the new contract will cost more.

As services across Argyll and Bute continue to be cut, the question must be asked, whether the council should plough hundreds-of-thousands-of-pounds into this contract.

It provides non-statutory services to three islands, with a total population of under 1,000, while another 19 inhabited islands with more than 10,000 population receive no such service.

This is a non-statutory service that the council must consider cutting to save statutory services.

I raised this issue by email with Councillor Gary Mulvaney, the council’s Conservative lead for strategic finance and Councillor Sandy Taylor, the leader of the council’s SNP group and copied my proposal to all other Helensburgh and Lomond councillors.

Councillor Mulvaney was the only one to reply but made no reference to considering cutting this non-statutory service.

Referring to the upcoming budget, council leader, Councillor Aileen Morton, stated that, ‘more and more, councils must focus on delivering their statutory services.’

It would appear that Councillor Morton and her administration will not practice what she preaches.

It appears they will continue to plough hundreds of thousands of pounds into Argyll Air Services in the upcoming budget.

We do not know what the SNP group on the council think as, so far, they have ignored my proposal on this issue.

It is time that the council put ever reducing statutory services first. Instead of paying hundreds-of-thousands-of-pounds for a non-statutory service funded by the majority.

George Freeman,

Independent councillor

Lomond North Ward.