Commenting on the Council’s Budget Options Paper published this week, South Lanarkshire Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Robert Brown (Rutherglen South Ward) said:
“These are very challenging times for South Lanarkshire Council. The coronavirus pandemic puts extra pressure on all councils and makes the financial position very complicated with some services reduced or closed and others having to double their workload.
But the biggest problem has been a decade of cutbacks – with the SNP Government in Edinburgh reducing Council funding as a proportion of the Scottish budget when measured on a like for like basis.
The options put forward by Council officials assume that we have to find about £5 million (£4.958m) of further cuts out of about £15 million (£15.559) possibilities. However some things may need more spending on them than before. One obvious possibility is supporting employment in South Lanarkshire in the wake of the closure of local businesses due to Covid. Another is the need for more support for young people in education who will have had the best part of 2 years of education damaged by the pandemic.
We will be talking about all this with other political parties. Liberal Democrats though will not be prepared to agree suggested cuts in particular in teacher numbers or early years provision, in breakfast clubs, or in pavement maintenance. We are also opposed to the petty and rather trivial cuts in things like Christmas lights and support for Galas and events like the Landemer Festival. These save very little money at the cost of a lot of much needed pleasure in local communities.
Liberal Democrats also want to invest in some neglected areas. The pavements, footpaths and gullies in Rutherglen and other parts of South Lanarkshire badly need improvement, to reduce falls, clear blocked drains, and get rid of puddles at pedestrian crossings. And we argued during Covid for a Community Brightening Fund to brighten up local communities after Covid – to paint railings, get rid of litter, make a concentrated attack of dog fouling and other environmental problems and help support local jobs. Finally we believe there is a need to ramp up investment in tackling climate change and increasing biodiversity.
Our aim is for a Council Budget with a razor sharp focus on recovery and on improvement.”