Friday, 26 July 2013

Cuts lead to neglect in local towns

The consequences of North Ayrshire Council’s multi-million pound cuts to jobs and services over recent years are becoming clear across local towns.

In addition to more high profile cuts to social services and other council departments, evidence is now emerging of a lack of maintenance in public areas of the Three Towns. The photos (above) show water of some sort seeping onto a pathway at the popular Holm Plantation; a wildy-overgrown area of grass near the busy junction of Jacks Road and Argyle Road in Saltcoats; and potentially dangerous damage to a pavement off Saltcoats High Road.

A Council insider this week confirmed to the3towns that the local authority had cut back on maintenance to such an extent that problems, such as those identified in the photos, are only being addressed when members of the public report them.  The Council worker said, “Almost everything is reactive now.  If something is reported, and it needs attention, it will get done.  But money is so tight now, so nothing gets done until it really has to be done.”

Like local authorities across the country, North Ayrshire Council has seen its finances slashed by central government.  Savage austerity measures imposed by the Tory-Lib Dem UK administration have seen cuts in the region of £1bn to the budget of the SNP Scottish Government.  The SNP says it is mitigating the impact of cuts, as best it can with the limited powers at its disposal in the devolved Scottish Parliament, but has been unable to prevent significant funding reductions being passed to local councils.

Cuts to much-needed council services and the increasing damage to the fabric of local towns through reduced maintenance are clear indications of the impact caused by UK Government policy to bail-out failing private banks and financial institutions by using public funds and borrowing.

At the time North Ayrshire Council agreed its current budget (January 2013), which contained proposals for a further £19m of cuts, Colin Turbett, Chair of the North Ayrshire branch of Unison, the largest public sector trade union, warned “There simply is nothing left to cut that does not affect vital services.”

Mr Turbett added, “The Council’s first three stated priorities of ‘community regeneration and increased employment’, ‘support of vulnerable people’ and ‘improvement of educational attainment’ are all to suffer for the fourth [priority] ‘operating more efficiently and effectively’. 

“They tell us they have a legal obligation to set a balanced budget.  We say they also have an obligation to defend our people from a government determined to serve the interests of the rich and the bankers.  Austerity policies are simply not working.”

Saltcoats & Stevenston Independent councillor Ronnie McNicol has taken-up the problems highlighted in the above photos and will ask the Council to take appropriate action to tackle each issue.

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