SNP and Tories push Falkirk Council budget through after four-hour debate
Falkirk Council's SNP administration won support from the Conservative members of the council to pass this year's revenue budget today.
Tackling climate change and poverty as well as the economic impact of Covid were put at the top of the local authority’s agenda and spending pledges include £50,000 on a new fund to tackle fly tipping.
There will also be more cash to help the many community pantries and other food providers that now exist across the district to help those struggling on very tight budgets.
Councillors also agreed that employment training was a priority and measures included £60,000 to help people aged over 25 to get back into work, to complement the funding that already exists for those aged 18-24.
Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn told members that the budget was being set in unique circumstances, as the impact of the pandemic continued to be felt.
"We recognise how challenging this year has been for our communities, and have sought to keep service reductions to an absolute minimum, with hopefully little impact being seen by our citizens," she said.
The package that was accepted included using £1.5 million of council reserves, which Mrs Meiklejohn said was justified in such a crisis.
She told members of Falkirk Council that she had hoped that all three of the political parties would come together and put forward a united budget at what was a time of national emergency.
But Labour group leader Robert Bissett made it clear that his party could not support the SNP's budget, accusing the administration of refusing to challenge funding cuts made by Holyrood over the past ten years.
If they wanted unity, he suggested, they could get behind the budget he was putting forward.
But, this prompted anger from the SNP and Conservatives, as the proposals Labour put forward were so similar that Councillor Paul Garner accused it of being a 'cut and paste budget'.
While the debate lasted four hours, there was much that all three parties did agree on.
They all said they had no plans to charge for brown bin collections - the issue that had been causing most concern among constituents, with Provost Buchanan saying he had received hundreds of complaints.
That charge was one of the suggestions made by council officers about how they could cut costs but it was firmly rejected, as were plans to cut funding to Falkirk's taxi marshalls.
Councillors did agree that they will start charging for replacement bins but were assured this would not apply where a bin has been damaged while it's being collected or if it has been stolen.
Conservative leader James Kerr said that the SNP budget had met all of his group's 'red lines', although he admitted that the two budgets were very similar.
"I think the best option would have been to have an all-council budget that each group could claim their part in delivering," he said.
"I really think the residents of Falkirk would have appreciated it during these very hard times."