Falkirk’s SNP administration fails to pass its capital budget programme

The SNP administration suffered its second serious defeat in one day as its capital programme failed to get approved yesterday (Wednesday) at the annual Falkirk Council budget meeting.

Labour group leader Robert Bissett said his party could not support the additional £8.7 million that would be needed to build  new council offices and an arts centre at a time when the Scottish Government capital budget had been cut by almost the same amount.

Instead, it asked director of development Rhona Geisler to come back to the council with proposals that would be achievable for £45 million.

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The revenue budget which had been agreed earlier in the day included raising Council Tax by 4.84 per cent – the maximum allowed by the Scottish Government.

Both SNP and Labour had backed the rise and agreed that some of the extra cash the rise will bring in should be used to fund the area’s capital programme.

SNP and Labour also both agreed with plans to invest £10 million in a digital learning programme that will see every child from P5 upwards be given an iPad to use.

They also agreed in investment in the council’s CCTV system, replacing the ageing analogue system with a state of the art digital version.

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But the Labour amendment also pledged an additional £7 million for road repairs.

Mr Bissett told the meeting: “Our roads need significant investment and £7m will allow our roads to be significantly improved.

“This will be a benefit to all our citizens. We are however asking for a review and a report before this allocation is used.”

Conservative party members backed Mr Bissett’s proposals for the second time on budget day.

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The SNP’s leader, Cecil Meiklejohn, said she understood the concerns over the additional spending on the new buildings and offered to look at ways of finding the extra cash from other external sources, including the growth deal that is expected to be announced soon.

She also agreed the SNP could look at spending extra cash on roads, provided that was spread out over three years.

But she urged members to wait until the full amount of the capital grant was known – which would not be until summer – before making any major decisions.

The Labour group, however, stuck to its budget and with Conservative support turned down the adminstration’s capital plans.

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The vote was a serious blow for the SNP minority administration as the joint council headquarters and theatre are central to their plans to regenerate the town centre.

SNP members accused the Labour group and Conservatives of working together, with councillor Gordon Hughes accusing the red and blue parties of joining forces to become a ‘purple wave’.

The Labour capital programme also asked for more cash to fund the Falkirk to Denny cyclepath; £500,000 to be spent improving Falkirk’s parks and playparks among other projects; and £450,000 to improve bus shelters.