Falkirk Council’s SNP administration were really up against it this week as the weather and the Labour opposition combined to delay their budget proposals.
The meeting had to be put back to 10am to allow members to arrive and then chief executive Mary Pitcaithly announced Falkirk was subject to its first ever red weather warning.
This forced a tight timescale on proceedings, with members and staff advised to be home before 3pm.
The Conservative group agreed with all but one of the SNP proposals, which group leader Malcolm Nicol said they had worked on together with the administration, including increasing Council Tax by three per cent, equating to a rise from £1,102 to £1,135 for Band D properties.
However, as The Falkirk Herald went to press, the Labour group was still at odds with nine of the SNP’s budget proposals, including its plan to withdraw funding from Salvation Army soup kitchens, which Labour group leader Dennis Goldie declared as a shameful move, and give cash to the Denny Eastern Access Road.
As time – and the weather – became a factor it was decided to hold the revenue budget on Wednesday and look at the capital programme at a later date.
Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn called the SNP’s proposed budget “the most positive” for Falkirk people for over a decade.
She added: “It’s a budget that spends £270 million in a positive way that benefits our residents. We inherited a £25 million gap in coming into the administration and we have taken on the job of starting to bridge that gap.
“We have been successful in securing a higher than anticipated settlement from the Scottish Government. The vast majority of reductions have come as a result of cuts to back room services within the council and workforce issues have been managed with no compulsory redundancies.
“The choices we have made have protected front line services as much as possible.”
The council will have to become more streamlined in the future and Councillor Meiklejohn said that process has already begun.
“It’s about doing things in a different way and putting the resources towards those in greatest need. People want access to the council 24/7 to report repairs and make payments.”
She said the budget settlement has allowed the council to not only protect certain services, but also enhance them – like the recycling centres at Kinneil and Roughmute becoming more accessible by dropping the charge for traders’ permits from £75 to £40.
The high price had seen a drop in traders using the recycling centres and an increase in fly-tipping, so the council hopes the price drop will reverse this trend.
£500,000 has been made available to allow the roads department to deal with problems like potholes.
As The Falkirk Herald was going to press the Labour group argued that £2 million should actually be freed up to deal with roads maintenance issues.