OPINION Cllr Martin Rooney: SNP budget hits families in the pocket
I was hoping to say Covid levels and hospitalizations are falling in Scotland, but it looks like we have the highest rates in the UK, although we seem to be taking a more cautious approach. Hopefully things will improve over the next few weeks as spring approaches.
The council set its budget for 2022 on March 9. The labor advisers’ proposals focused on the cost of living crisis. We have rampant inflation, the cost of home energy has skyrocketed, food prices are rising every week and the cost of travel is rising.
All of this puts additional pressure on beleaguered families who are not seeing their wages rise fast enough to stand still. We also have further increases in energy costs to come, and National Insurance contributions are expected to rise along with water rates.
The last thing needed was a 3% rise in council tax, so Labor proposed a council tax freeze to help all residents. Our proposals also included a cash grant of £100 to 12,000 low-income households and an additional £250,000 set aside by the Scottish Welfare Fund to support the most needy families.
Additionally, our budget would have given £156,000 to local food banks so they could buy £1,000 worth of food each week to top up donations; £1,000 a week to help people with fuel vouchers; and an additional £1,000 a week to buy ShopLocal vouchers, supporting local businesses and helping struggling families.
There was a lot more to Labour’s budget proposals, such as a £1.25m investment in learning, a top-up of £50 per child for school clothing grants and additional investment projects like £5 million more for road improvements. Sadly, SNP councilors won the vote and imposed a 3% council tax on local residents.
Labour’s budget proposals have invested £3.5million in the cost of living crisis, but the SNP have earmarked just £400,000.
As household bills and energy costs hit record highs, SNP councilors added fuel to the fire and showed their lack of support for struggling residents when they cut off payment of the £150 cost of living on people’s council tax bills rather than handing it over. in the form of a lump sum.
Some 38,500 households in West Dunbartonshire will be eligible for the payment which applies to those staying in homes in the AD municipal tax brackets. But struggling families need money in their pockets now to help with their winter fuel bills, not spread them out over the year.
I will end with good news that after two years the council offices have reopened to the public, so that local residents can once again talk to council staff face to face.