Supporters of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, and Raploch’s Big Noise, received welcome confirmation today (Thursday) of a long held Labour position that proposals floated by council officers to cut funding to both organisations will NOT be in this year’s Stirling Council budget.
The Smith was facing a 90% reduction in its funding in 2020, with the Big Noise facing big reductions from next year. Both organisations have been the subject of grass roots campaigns to highlight the importance they play in their communities and the real threat to their futures.
In a Statement from Stirling Council SNP Labour Administration, Labour Councillor and Depute Council Leader Danny Gibson said,
“The Big Noise and the Stirling Smith are jewels in Stirling’s cultural crown and we will not be taking the budget options concerning them forward into our final proposal this year. However, the immense pressure on local government finances looks set to get worse and eventually that will mean we cannot give money we do not have. I would urge everybody who had signed a petition or written a letter to continue their campaign by writing to every MSP and MP and urge them to save Local Authorities from more devastating cuts in the years ahead”.
Councillor Gibson’s comments were echoed by Labour’s Administration Partners, with the SNP’s Scott Farmer stating “the options relating to both the Stirling Smith and Big Noise are being removed from budget projections”.
Rumour has it that the Labour Group made it clear months ago that these options were non-starters, but that they still ended up in the Priority Based Budgeting consultation process.
“When the school bully steals your lunch money, he’s still a bully if he offers you some of it back”
The longer term security of both organisations is no clearer than it is for any other local service, as the pressures on Stirling Council’s finances continue to mount. The SNP Government has done a deal with the Greens at Holyrood to lessen the impact of Derek Mackay’s turbo charged austerity agenda by increasing the money on offer to Local Authorities this year – but who knows what will happen next time.
Councillor Gibson said,
“When the school bully steals your lunch money, he’s still a bully if he offers you some of it back. It is farcical for (local SNP MSP) Bruce Crawford to agree with Derek MacKay’s “fair” cut to our budget six weeks ago and then claim SNP decisions have delivered a “fairer” budget this week, when he’s only doing it because the Greens told him what to think. This pantomime nonsense of the SNP Government presenting a terrible deal simply so they can let a Green Knight ride to the rescue is hugely damaging and creates unnecessary fear and anxiety for council employees, the communities they serve and the services they provide. Stirling deserves better than this.”
“The SNP Government has a habit of giving with one hand and taking away with the other”
On the new budget settlement announced this week by the SNP / Green “coalition”, the Labour Group’s Economy Spokesperson Councillor Margaret Brisley said,
“The SNP Government has a habit of giving with one hand and taking away with the other, so I’m going to remain skeptical until we drill down into these figures. We’ve still got a projected budget deficit over the next five years in Stirling of over £20 million and it still isn’t clear if this is a one year settlement or if this additional cash will be included in the baseline for future settlements. If not, we’re right back where we started next year.”
So while there is still a great deal of work to be done before Stirling Council sets its budget for 2018/19 on February 22nd, Labour supporters can be assured that our Labour Councillors are working hard to write a budget that delivers for the many, not the few. Our councillors are also ensuring that the Administration continue to tell Finance Minister Derek MacKay exactly what his continued assault on local services are doing to Stirling, regardless of how uncomfortable that makes the SNP Councillors on the Partnership administration.
Stirling Council will meet to set its budget for the coming year on February 22nd.