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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

South Ayrshire council leaders slammed over budget cuts

SNP leader Peter Henderson slammed South Ayrshire council leaders’ “reliance” on officers as they narrowly passed a controversial budget which critics said could open the door for the local authority to impose compulsory redundancies.

Henderson said that the Tory administration had failed to give satisfactory details on many of its proposals, claiming that they deflected questions when asked about specific items, and chose to refer questions to officers.

He also questioned Conservative finance spokesperson, Ian Davis, over his repeated insistence that council officials would monitor services facing reductions and take action if necessary.

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Henderson said: “There is quite clearly no vision shown. Everything relies on somebody else to tell them what to do.”

He highlighted a £300,000 cut to Thriving Communities as a “horrendous” example of this.

The administration has argued that the saving is a result of targeting improvements while maintaining service levels, but the SNP councillor insisted the cut would hit “one part of local government that is actually working”.

Henderson said he didn’t understand why the administration cut £50,000 for apprenticeships and made teachers who voluntarily supervise pupils at lunchtime pay for their meal.

He said: “At a time when industrial relations with teachers are strained, I don’t think that was very advisable.”

The Girvan member said he was unconvinced by the Conservatives’ stance on compulsory redundancies.

He said: “Despite being asked three times they would not commit to [no compulsory redundancies]. I think that is important.”

Council leader, Martin Dowey, did state there was “no appetite” for redundancies.

However, he did suggest that any request to change that position would require to go to council for approval.

Henderson also criticised the refurbishment of Ayr’s Citadel leisure centre at the cost of £10 million over four years, saying the cost for full overhaul was between £23m and £28m and would be higher now.

He also hit out at the system that allowed the Provost’s casting vote to give the administration victory in this and other important votes.

While acknowledging the casting vote was technically allowed, he suggested that it had become and “ethical and moral” issue.

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