Facilities saved in council budget

Motherwell Civic Centre
Motherwell Civic Centre

North Lanarkshire Council was able to protect community facilities as it passed its budget last week, but has been criticised for a £1m cut to education.

After the Scottish Government stepped in with an extra £10.3m the council was able to mitigate many of its proposed savings options.

This included reducing the cut to the management fees to North Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture NL from nine per cent to 3.5 per cent.

As a result there will be no change to the opening hours at NLL facilities such as Kilsyth Swimming Pool, the likes of Birkenshaw Sports Barn will remain open and all community centres under threat, such as Jerviston, will be spared from the axe.

In addition £300,000 has been found to upgrade Palacerigg Country Park, Kilbowie Outdoor Centre will remain open, as will Newarthill Library, while there will be no introduction of parking charges,

Footwear and clothing grants will increase to £110, breakfast provision will be expanded into every school, £1 million will be invested in the roads network, £200,000 will be invested in both cemetery infrastructure and pilot scheme tackling fly tipping, and the Schools and Centres 21 programme will be boosted by £27.5 million.

Councillor Tom Fisher, the council’s convener of finance, said: “This has not been an easy process, and we have faced significant challenges in getting to a balanced budget.

“During our recent consultation, people told us they didn’t want to see cuts to facilities in their communities.

“We have been able to achieve that by not reducing the management fee available to North Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture NL.”

The budget was passed as the minority Labour administration were supported by the Conservative group, however they reached an impasse over an increase to council tax as Labour and the SNP joined forces to pass a three per cent increase at the expense of the Conservative’s two per cent proposal.

Council leader Jim Logue was prompted to call for the parties to work together better after the SNP Group refused to take part in the budget sounding board.

He said: “At the budget meeting, I made a clear offer to the SNP Group that we should put the days of tribal divisions behind us and all work together in the best interests of the people of North Lanarkshire when it comes to setting a budget and I hope they take the opportunity to reflect on their decisions and get round the table next year.

“As we know, at a national level, the SNP have negotiated budget deals with both the Green Party and the Conservatives in recent years.

“I am simply asking them to adopt this collegiate approach in North Lanarkshire to the benefit of those who elected them.”

However, the SNP Group refuses work with the Conservatives, business manager Allan Stubbs going to far as to say he ‘hates’ them during the meeting.

SNP Group leader David Stocks said: “This budget is clearly and strongly supported by the Tories. Labour openly admit there has been a ‘significant’ Tory input into their budget plans.

“This is a Labour-Tory team budget. the Tory influence is seen in Labour’s £1 million-plus slashing in the Education budget. This is shocking in a deprived area like North Lanarkshire.”