Labour minority administration passes council budget

Labour’s minority administration passed its annual budget with lacklustre support from Conservative councillors with an eye on forthcoming elections.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 10:43 am
12-01-2018. Picture Michael Gillen. West Lothian council leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick

Councillor Bruce Fairbairn agreed with Labour’s criticism of the Scottish Government’s constant under-funding of local authorities but said ”the budget could be so much better”.

He told the meeting of the full council that Labour should be looking to build partnerships with business to attract thousands of jobs rather than hundreds.

Labour leader Councillor Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: “Once again West Lothian Council’s funding is insufficient to cover the costs the council will incur in the coming financial year so further cuts to services will again be necessary.

“Once again the Scottish Government has done nothing to address the historic underfunding of council services or the changing age profile of the authority.

“In addition to this the Scottish Government has one again corseted the council and its ability to allow its democratically elected members to decide the rate that council tax should be set.

“Not withstanding the funding constraints placed upon the council and the unknowns due to the drip feeding of Covid funding from the Scottish Government I am pleased that my Labour colleagues and I have been able to vote through a budget that protects vital council services and reflects the current needs within West Lothian.”

The SNP’s Andrew Miller said a hallmark of Labour’s administration was its refusal to change position. Saying there was ” no leadership and no compassion in the wake of the Covid Pandemic.

He said this year ” the budget should have been rebuilt from the ground up.”

The SNP amendment budget rejected the plan for a two year spending programme, instead calling for reserves to be used to alleviate pressures on communities this year, and for the development of new technologies.

In a package worth almost £3 million the SNP group proposed the installation of a solar farm to either supply energy to the National Grid, raise additional income for West Lothian Council or provide the energy for council-owned buildings.

The Labour budget passed easily by 17 votes to 12.

Councillor Diane Calder called the SNP’s a budget with a vision, to invest in a greener economy.

The group also proposed spending free school meals all year including holiday periods to all P1‐P3 and all eligible children in P4‐P7.

It proposed spending £1.140m to reinstate Adult Day Services free at point of delivery for all service users. and £2.5m Initiate Covid Relief Fund for our the Third Sector.

Conservative group leader Damian Doran-Timson said SNP councillors should be embarrassed and ashamed that the SNP government had slashed funding for local authorities by 5% .

To Labour he said: “The Conservatives would not have supported this budget without a severe winter weather fund.”