SNP targetted equality and fairness in alternative council budget

Falkirk Council’s opposition SNP Group have targeted inequality in their alternative budget with a whole raft of changes that benefit vulnerable groups throughout the district.

Top of the SNP’s shopping list is the abolition of the controversial charges for essential social work services introduced last year by the Labour / Conservative Coalition Administration. The raft of charges were due to bring into the council £1.6 million of additional income but that figure has already been downgraded by 20% while council officers have admitted the estimated costs of collection have soared.

In this area of social care the SNP also propose to,

•abolish charges to disabled drivers for the renewal of blue badges,

• the restoration of allowances paid to Day Care clients,

• the implementation of the STUC’s Living Wage campaign,

• restore free school meals for all children at Carrongrange School.

• Reverse the proposals to cut the grants available to the Voluntary Sector with a small increase in grant to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in recognition of the role they play in tackling poverty and disadvantage.

Comment from SNP Spokesperson for Social Services, Cllr Cecil Meiklejohn, said,

“The introduction of punitive levels of charges for essential services such as Homecare and MECS has not only penalised hardest those who are least able to look after themselves but has also been an administrative disaster.

Our proposed changes are designed to protect the most vulnerable within our community.”

Another of the Nationalist’s big ideas is the establishment of a “Jobs and Training Fund using £300,000 of Scottish Government money and £200,000 of council resources to get people, particularly young people back to work.

Making comment, SNP Economic Development Spokesperson, Cllr Angus MacDonald aid,

“The current Labour / Tory Administration have lost the momentum the SNP gained with My Future’s in Falkirk economic developments strategy.

A jobs and training fund allows us to boost the local economy to help deal with the Labour recession by assisting young people in particular gain not only job opportunities but also the skills to compete.”

The SNP have also sought to freeze both School Meal charges which will have gone up by a staggering 48% since Labour and the Tories came to power and sports and leisure facilities which were increased by 15% in the current year.

Quote from SNP Education spokesperson, Cllr Tom Coleman,

“Falkirk Council had the lowest priced healthy option meal and the highest take up in Scotland when the SNP and Independents ran the council.

That was because we believe the children benefitted from this policy. However, it has been abandoned by all but the SNP to the clear detriment of our young people hence the drop in pupil numbers taking up the option of healthy school meals.”

The SNP propose to pay for these changes with the following savings,

• Using the additional £1million recently allocated to Falkirk Council by the Scottish Government for savings on Fire Service Pensions and winter maintenance.

• Reducing the editions of the council’s newspaper from 4 a year to 2 and cutting back on other internal publications.

• Replacing tea and coffee facilities in the Councillors area with pay facilities and reducing advertising.

• Carrying forward a portion of this year’s under spend and revising council tax collection targets up to match current collection rates.

Moving the proposed changes to the budget, SNP Group Leader, Cllr David Alexander said,

“While the Labour / Tory Administration has been cutting services, privatising entire departments and introducing unfair charges for elderly and disabled people the SNP has been working to identify efficiencies that allow us to put fairness and compassion back onto the agenda of Falkirk Council.

Our alternative proposals have been costed by council officials and allow for the type of change that previous Labour Councillors would have been clambering to support.

We know that public service budgets are tight and you look at English Local Authorities facing 10% cuts this year. However, thanks to the grant settlement by the SNP government of every £100 Falkirk Council has to spend this year they have retained £99.20p for net year.

We have demonstrated that the elderly and disabled people can be protected and that we can grow the local economy if only the political will is there.”

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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