End of the line for Birkhill Clay Mine

0103011 birkhill claymine condemned buildings
0103011 birkhill claymine condemned buildings

THE permanent closure of Birkhill Clay Mine, currently shut on health and safety grounds, was voted through by a majority at Wednesday’s budget meeting, saving £25,000.

£350,000 was earmarked to keep previously-axed commercial bus services, including the X19 Bo’ness-Edinburgh services – see page 7 of this week’s Journal and Gazette for more details.

Council tax payments and meals on wheels were frozen, while the price of school lunches and rents go up.

Local authority staff on the Living Wage will get a rise from £7.20 to £7.50 and there is provision for other workers to get a one per cent pay increase.

During the day’s deliberations, a £75.5m three-year capital spending programme, a 2013/14 revenue budget of around £500 million and £115m of housing investment up to 2016 were all passed by the administration.

Falkirk Council leader, Councillor Craig Martin, said despite a £10.7 million funding gap, frontline services had been prioritised, there was a large-scale investment programme, and continued efficiency savings were being made.

But SNP opposition leader Cecil Meiklejohn said there had been a lack of commitment and ambition to creating jobs and boosting the local economy.

The education budget dips by 0.8 per cent to £166.9 million. Cash will be injected into the introduction of a universal 25 hours of primary school class contact time.

Allocations of support for learning assistants in schools will be reviewed, and a ‘refreshing the teaching profession’ scheme will look to trim costs via voluntary severances and early retirements.

Social work services get a rise of 2.3 per cent taking the cash pot to £87.5m. Spending includes five new occupational therapist community care workers.

Under the district wide capital programme for the year ahead, £2.6m is earmarked for the structural maintenance of roads and footpaths, £100,000 will upgrade playparks and £300,000 goes to Kinneil Kerse’s landfill restoration.

The Tax Incremental Finance scheme, aimed at job creation, gets £3.2 million.

Within the housing budget, provision is included for energy efficiency measures, external repair works and kitchen/bathroom improvements needed to bring 30 per cent of properties to Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015.

A payment of just over £12 million was approved for Falkirk Community Trust, which runs culture, library, sport and recreation services, despite opposition criticism that not enough detail was provided in its business report.

Its charges for the coming year remain to be approved by the trust board on February 21.

The trust had consulted with the SRPS and National Mining Museum of Scotland over Birkhill Clay Mine’s future.

Around £100,000 would have been needed just to meet safety regulations.

An SNP call for the trust to bring a full business case before the council made its decision was rejected.

Other budget news at a glance

n Council tax band D remains at £1070 for 2013/14.

n A £15,000 feasibility study will look at future development opportunities for Kinneil House.

n School and community hall lets will rise by an average of three per cent.

n Parking charges are upped by 20p in Falkirk’s paid for council parking, and temporary road closure orders for street events will be a flat rate of £685.

n Muiravonside visitor centre gets £54,000 for improvements.

n Payments to the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, Grangemouth and Bo’ness Citizens Advice and the Bo’ness Barnardos Family Centre stay the same.

n The costs of cremations and burials are increased; there are funds for extra burial spaces in cemeteries.

n £50,000 is allocated to Falkirk Community Trust for a Homecoming 2014 event bid in partnership with EventScotland.

n Printing costs could be saved via the introduction of e-agendas for councillors.

n SNP proposals for a new Blackness school/community hall, and investment in Blackness coastal paths were knocked back.