Councillor Alison Laurie (Stirling East)
As Finance Spokesperson for the SNP group on Stirling Council, I was delighted that the SNP partnership Administration’s budget was unanimously voted through at the Council Budget meeting last week.
The Administration secured a broad range of budget proposals to further our policy initiatives during this term. Revenue items include;
- £200,000 to help mitigate the effects of Universal Credit and the devastating impact it is having on individuals and families.
- £100,000 to assist in making Stirling a Dementia friendly City – a focus on awareness and also support within communities and the city centre which many people with dementia find difficult to access.
- £100,000 for apprenticeships and graduate trainees.
- £80,000 to assist those groups tackling Gender-based violence with training and support.
- £80,000 to pilot a Holiday Hunger project.
- £50,000 to support schemes for promoting the Year of the Young Person incorporating Stirling Youth Gathering’s 4 key priorities of mental health and wellbeing, transport, reimagining the city centre and educational provision and attainment.
- £30,000 to alleviate Period Poverty in our schools.
The Tories submitted an amendment to our revenue proposals, but this was simply to spend the money we had approved for reserves and was rejected. They admitted themselves that it was a good budget which they had no real argument with. Astonishingly they wanted a commitment to spend £200,000 of taxpayer’s money per year on a three-year funding allocation for mitigation of Universal Credit; a proposal which prompted the suggestion that they lobby their MP to speak up for his constituents in Stirling by calling a halt to this broken system until it is fixed.
Bizarrely, the Tories also put forward an amendment to our capital budget programme but withdrew this before any discussion could take place. Clearly, they could not argue with the well thought out and logical proposals which we recommended.
We have also put an additional £1,000,000 to the provisional Road Infrastructure Modernisation and Improvement Fund for 2018/2019 to make a total budget allocation of £4,500,000. The Administration recognises the challenges of upgrading our roads network – particularly following the harsh winter temperatures – and consultation is already underway to ensure resources are suitably directed. If funds are required for specific projects, these can be investigated more fully on an individual basis.
We have set aside a revenue surplus of £285,OOO to assist with future efficiency savings, and have saved £919,000 on Priority Based Budget (PBB) options for this year. This is on top of £35.3m in PBB savings up to 2020/21 already approved.
We are looking to overhaul the current system and have a more participatory form of PBB in forthcoming years, and discussions will take place next month on how to take forward this initiative so as to fully engage with communities and constituents. This will look to start far earlier in the process, and will ask people their views on what services are the most important to them. It is crucial we involve people in the decisions the Council take, and work productively and proactively with everyone involved.
I appreciate this is a bombardment of facts and figures, however, it is important to grasp the reality of the difficult financial choices that continued Westminster austerity is forcing Stirling Council to make in the forthcoming years. We are currently in a healthy financial position, with reserves in excess of those prescribed, however, by 2021/22 we need to make nearly £20m worth of savings.
Careful and well planned decisions will have to be made to ensure that Stirling taxpayers are getting the best value for money with every pound that we spend. There are huge challenges ahead, but the SNP Councillor group is working hard to ensure we continue to invest in our local services and our local communities.