Council tax freeze for Argyll & Bute

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Council tax has been frozen in Argyll and Bute Council’s budget plans.

And proposals to reduce grass cutting in public spaces were also dropped from the authority’s spending proposals.

They include a £6.7 million fund to support tourism and initiatives for young people.

But schools’ entitlement for clerical support will be ‘reviewed and reduced’, despite an attempt by opposition councillors to have the proposal rejected.

The council tax freeze will keep the bill for the average Band D property at £1,367.73.

Additional funding announced by the council’s ruling coalition of Liberal Democrat, Conservative and independent councillors – known as the ‘Argyll, Lomond and the Islands’ (ALI) group – includes £830,000 for tourism opportunities in the area, including staycation facilities and marketing.

More than £3.1m will be spent on improving connectivity in the area, including road works and development of ‘active travel’.

A total of £1.7m will go towards a recovery and renewal fund, climate change measures and the area’s Rural Growth Deal.

A total of £600,000 will go towards the wellbeing of young people, while free off-street festive parking will return in the 2021 festive season as a result of £20,000 of funding.

Gaelic, welfare rights and initiatives to tackle digital exclusion also figure in the extra funding. The budget was agreed by the council at a virtual meeting on Thursday February 25.

Nineteen councillors sided with the ruling administration’s spending plans, while 13 voted for the amended proposal tabled by the SNP opposition.

Council leader Robin Currie said: ‘When this council set its budget last year, we thought we knew a little about what lay ahead on the horizon.

‘Just a few weeks later we realised the tremendous scale of the challenge we were right in the middle of, and had to respond very quickly.

‘We have made so much progress since then, with so many changes to deliver and challenges to overcome. This year’s budget is a budget like no other.’

SNP group leader Sandy Taylor said: ‘This has been a very difficult year for all of us and we have looked at ways we can revitalise the damage done to Argyll and Bute.

‘We had to stop almost everything we did and had little time to take stock of what we could do and monitor on a daily basis.

‘We had to await guidance and advice from others, but the council rose to the challenge – our workforce, members and people of Argyll and Bute.

‘This is a balanced and competent budget which allows us to develop resilience in our communities post-Covid, and to support families and young people.’

The SNP amendment was backed by independent councillors Jean Moffat and Douglas Philand, who are not members of the ruling administration.

Councillor Philand’s two Argyll and Bute First colleagues, George Freeman and Donald Kelly, were not in attendance.

As expected, the ruling coalition’s plans were backed by all 18 members of the ALI group as well as by independent councillor Jim Anderson.

Conservative councillor Alastair Redman (Kintyre and the Islands), policy lead for business, regeneration and commercial development, added: ‘We will be investing an extra £800,000 in economic development which will contribute to improved digital connectivity and is an absolute prerequisite for businesses and job creation.

‘And improving the roads, particularly for communities like the ones I represent in more remote areas, is good for the local economy too. Securing jobs and livelihoods for local people is an absolute priority for the council.’