Letters to the editor – November 1, 2019

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All victims of wars

Sir,

It is time for Remembrance again and many people will be wearing a red poppy in support of the allied servicemen and women who suffered during the last century.

White poppies have been on sale since 1934 to support and remember all victims of all wars, be they civilian or military and regardless of race or gender. Funds raised go towards the peace building work of the Peace Pledge Union, who are unashamedly against wars and the causes of wars.

On Tuesday November 5 and Thursday November 7 we will be selling white poppies from the foyer of the Lochgilphead Co-op.

Bob Dixon, Minard

Stop these mad cuts

Sir,

I agree with the points made by Robert MacIntyre in last week’s edition of the Argyllshire Advertiser, when he says that the proposed education cuts are ‘madness’.

This madness is being forced on councils by the SNP government and its Green Party allies at Holyrood, who for years have been voting for Scottish Government budgets which force councils to make cuts.

Unless the SNP and the Greens change course and stop cutting the money they give to councils, this madness will continue.

I hope that Mr MacIntyre, a former SNP councillor, will write to the leaders of the SNP and the Greens and demand they give councils enough money to stop these mad cuts.

Councillor Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat candidate for Argyll and Bute

An open letter to Argyll and Bute Council Leader, Councillor Aileen Morton, regarding difficult budget decisions

Dear Aileen

We are responding to your recent consultation about the council budget.

Whilst we are very sympathetic to the difficulties that all public bodies, including the Scottish Government, have faced as a result of a decade of austerity it is only fair to point out that this was imposed not by the Scottish Parliament, but by Westminster.

The truth is that overall the Scottish Government has maintained the overall funding for local government, as a share of the overall budget, at around 27 per cent.

Councils have, once again, the option of raising additional funds by increasing the council tax, something they have sought for a long while.

The individual share of the total funding allocated to councils is decided by COSLA, using a needs-based formula. Argyll and Bute Council will receive a total of £221.9 million to fund their services in 2019-20 which, taken alongside the council tax increase they have decided to implement, will give the council an additional £14.2 million this year compared to last – a rise of 6.8 per cent.

They will also receive their fair share of the extra funding that has already been announced during the current financial year including £141 million for teacher’s pay and £60.8 million for increased teacher’s pension contributions.

The council could do a number of things to improve its own prospects.

You and your administration could work hard to influence the COSLA formula which does not favour rural authorities with falling populations. The Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance has confirmed to us that he is always willing to consider suggestions, through COSLA, from individual local authorities.

You and your administration could be more imaginative in streamlining central management and devolving delivery and local decision-making closer to local people.

You and your administration could maximise income whilst remembering that local businesses are the lifeblood of recovery. The recent massive hike in inspection charges for food products is an example of the wrong decision being likely to damage the economy rather than enhance it.

You and your administration could maximise your assets by working with communities. The council has been slow to undertake any significant asset transfer which could lead to useful and productive partnerships.

You and your administration could be more responsive to, and careful with, communities. The waste of money and time on things like the abortive Traffic Regulating Order for Mull and Iona indicates where you are not using resource wisely and storing up difficulties for the future.

You and your administration could ensure that any cuts do not fall on essential services needed for future success. The proposed reduction in educational support staff is an example of where a choice is being made that will not only be counterproductive in terms of our collective future and wellbeing, but will also lose the council local sympathy and support.

And you and your administration could prepare to use the already agreed additional £50 million for the rural growth deal – coming jointly from the Scottish and UK Governments – to make a long term difference in your performance by instituting a step change in the local economy.

As your local constituency parliamentarians we are committed to ensuring the maximum resource comes from central government to Argyll and Bute.

We are always happy to work alongside, and in support of, the council and we would be keen to meet to help you develop a detailed plan for the future of the area we are all elected to serve. But we must all be straight with local people and explain that responsibility for the difficulties that the council is experiencing do not all lie at the door of the Scottish Government, and therefore nor do all the possible solutions.

Michael Russell MSP and Brendan O’Hara MP