Friday, 26 February 2016
Yesterday, I submitted my amendments to the Dundee City Council budget meeting, aimed at tackling some of the worst effects of the SNP’s austerity cuts.
Had I won the vote, my amendment would have scrapped the proposed large increases in car parking charges across the city, garden maintenance charges for elderly and disabled people would not have imposed this year and frozen until a fair charging system based on ability to pay is put in place, and there would have been a less severe cut in roads maintenance and street lighting than the SNP is imposing.
My additional expenditure to stop car park charges and cuts in garden maintenance for the elderly and disabled and roads and street lighting maintenance would have been paid for by modest cuts in non-controversial areas such as equipment, furniture, contract care hire, catering and hospitality – these reductions being spread right across the council to lessen the impact in each department.
I was not fooling myself that it is in any way possible to stop the worst effects of the SNP austerity cuts. The bottom line is that John Swinney has taken an axe to local government this year and Dundee faces terrible cuts of £23 million this year. However, I think my budget amendment did help in a number of vital areas. It is not in the city’s economic interests to see car parking hiked this year. Nor should elderly and disabled people on low incomes be charged for garden maintenance as the SNP is doing. I also tried to stop the worst of the roads maintenance and street lighting cuts.
Although I lost the vote, I was at least the only opposition councillor to propose an alternative budget. Labour - with ten councillors - failed to propose any alternative budget whatsoever.
The administration did at least agree to a working group I had proposed to look at garden maintenance charges being based on ability to pay.
However, the overall budget outcome is bad news for Dundee's local services without any shadow of a doubt.