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Column: Stirling Budget Mismangement Will Hurt for Years to Come


Categories: Column, News

It’s no secret that public budgets across these isles are under unprecedented strain. Fourteen years of underinvestment by the UK Government, coupled with the fallout from Brexit, the war in Ukraine and the pandemic, has led to an all-out crisis amongst many public services and institutions. Across England, local governments face financial ruin, the stoppage of important functions and the fire sale of assets.

The Scottish Government has used its limited fiscal and policy power to shield Scotland’s communities from the corrosive impact of UK austerity. Yet with diminishing budgets and soaring overheads, the legal requirement for Holyrood and local authorities to set balanced budgets has only underlined the real limitations of devolution within the broken UK system.

I was disappointed to see Stirling Labour, in control of Stirling Council as a minority administration, cut a deal with the Tories to pass their proposed budget of cuts. Whilst I appreciate there are no easy decisions to take, our SNP Councillors did indeed put forward a competent alternative budget – more than can be said for the Tories who fell in behind Labour. One can only imagine how Labour supporters must feel, knowing their electoral votes have been used to implement Tory-backed cuts.

The SNP budget would have safeguarded libraries, retained swimming lessons for P5 pupils, as well as grants for vital third-sector organisations such as Stirling Citizens Advice Bureau, who do so much for some of the most vulnerable in our communities. Sadly the voting arithmetic carried the day, the SNP budget was voted down, and it will fall to Labour and Conservative Councillors to justify their decisions in community meetings and to residents this coming year.

Soon after the budget had passed, Chief Executive Carol Beattie announced her resignation. Carol has been an absolute asset to Stirling Council in her time, and helped guide us through the torrid pandemic years. Her calm and professional approach will be sorely missed, at a time of increasing instability at home and overseas.

Stirling Council has now reached a crisis point, with political leadership needed more than ever. Having lost their Chief Executive Officer, Chief Finance Officer, and of course their first Tory Provost, residents will want to see a credible, deliverable transformation plan in place for the local authority. As per the Council’s own analysis, October 2024 could see the beginning of a sustained and growing budget crisis, suggesting a £600,000 monthly overspend unless action is taken now.

As ever, I stand as Stirling’s MP to represent all our residents, communities, businesses and organisations. My door remains open to work with folks from any party and none to protect Stirling’s public services, boost sustainable economic growth and get us back on track.