DUMFRIES and Galloway Council will meet next Thursday to set their budget, including another proposed council tax rate freeze, for the year amid accusations they are operating a “sinister culture of secrecy”.
The Leader of the Labour Group on Dumfries and Galloway Council, Councillor Ronnie Nicholson say his party are concerned the Tory administration have “ditched” the practise adopted during the budget setting process last year of publishing their draft budget in advance of budget setting day.
Councillor Nicholson said: “In previous years the council consulted the public on savings options and agreed that the administration, who are supposed to be leading the council, should publish their draft budget in advance of budget setting day. If other groups didn’t support the draft budget they had the opportunity to publish an alternative, again in advance of the budget setting day, which is what happened last year. This allowed feedback on the budget proposals that could be taken into account before the final budget was agreed.
“This year the savings options being considered by the council have pretty much been kept secret from the public, tucked away in council papers, with no consultation whatsoever with local people.”
Council Leader indicates a budget for Jobs and Local Investment across Dumfries and Galloway
But Conservative and Lib Dem Administration group Leader Councillor Ivor Hyslop said he would still consider any budget proposals other groups have ahead of Thursday’s summit.
Councillor Hyslop said: “We all understand the difficult worldwide economic climate that our country is facing and the knock on result that this will have on our local economy. For this reason, this Administration welcomes the unanimous support it received from all political groupings when determining the budget cuts in December.
“This Administration has taken on board comments it has received from communities across Dumfries and Galloway. We all realise that funding for future years is likely, at best, to remain static, it is therefore even more important that our budget is to maximise spend locally and for reinvestment in our local economy.”
“While we aim to maintain our current level of service across the region, with a fifth consecutive Council Tax freeze, changes are inevitable.
“As we strive to secure a better Dumfries and Galloway some of our target areas for investment are: increased apprenticeship schemes, graduate placements, maintaining increased investment in our roads infrastructure, a better start in life for our children, funding small town and village face lift schemes, funding for planned preventative maintenance schemes targeted at manageable packages to allow for local businesses to tender for this work, redesigning services for the elderly and vulnerable across our region.”
Following on Councillor Hyslop said:
“Moving forward this Administration has offered all political parties the opportunity to discuss any constructive policy initiatives that they wish to see included in this budget.
I am open to suggestions from any political group and will consider any requests put to me; I want this Council to move forward into 2012/13 with a secure financial future and a balanced budget.”