Tuesday, 24 May 2016 10:50

Russell calls on Scottish Government to take action to restore "democratic norms” in Argyll & Bute

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Audit Scotland issues damning report about Council Budget Process

The MSP for Argyll & Bute Michael Russell has called on the Scottish Government to take action after a report from Audit Scotland found severe flaws in the setting of the budget by Argyll & Bute Council in February

- a budget that slashed expenditure on education and other vital services despite public opposition - and claimed that the process the Council adopted “limited the ability of elected members and the public to raise informed questions”  failed to be transparent and “promote and demonstrate scrutiny of the options” and did not give local council tax payers any “evidence of the …endorsement of the budget by the Chief Financial Officer” of the Council.

Commenting on the report Mr Russell said: “I made a complaint to Audit Scotland after the budget process and others did so too.  Now their damning report indicates that the budget that was passed was neither transparent nor able to be properly scrutinised. It also failed to demonstrate whether or not it was legitimate in terms of approval by the Council’s Chief Financial Officer.

These are very serious shortcomings particularly as the budget was very controversial and included redundancies and reductions in some very important areas including school staffing and libraries. Given all the other issues surrounding the Council external intervention - if a means can be found - is certainly required. I have tabled a motion to that effect in the Scottish Parliament and I will press the issue with Scottish Ministers. Public confidence in the Council is at an all time low and the present situation cannot be allowed to continue any longer.

The motion lodged in the Scottish Parliament is given below:

Motion Number: S5M-00133
Lodged By: Michael Russell
Date Lodged: 23/05/2016

Title: Audit Scotland Report on the Argyll and Bute Council Budget Setting Process 2016-17

Motion Text:

That the Parliament notes Audit Scotland's report on the budget setting process of Argyll and Bute Council for 2016-17; expresses great concern that the report concludes that aspects of the process "limited the ability of elected members and the public to raise informed questions"; recommends that the council "consider the transparency of the final stages of the budget setting process and how effective it is in promoting and demonstrating scrutiny of the options" and notes that "members of the public have no evidence of the discussions and endorsement of the budget by the Chief Financial Officer"; considers these to be very serious defects, particularly in the light of what it sees as the poor performance of Argyll and Bute Council in a range of other areas and the strong local disquiet about many of its actions, particularly its continuing refusal to transfer assets to communities and others despite economic and social need, and calls on the Scottish Government to find a way to intervene with urgency in order to restore public confidence in the democratic , transparent and accountable norms that should be observed by any council and, by so doing, restore Argyll and Bute Council to organisational, managerial and political health.