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Roads the winner as economy and community clash in Perth and Kinross Covid-19 dominated budget

Conservative Council Leader Murray Lyle
Conservative Council Leader Murray Lyle

Economy versus community dominated debate around a Covid-19 dominated budget as Perth and Kinross councillors argued on how to best recover from the pandemic.

The Conservative group won a landslide victory for their proposal which focused on business while also putting forward a £4 million roads package.

All parties rejected a controversial proposal to charge bereaved families £84 for webcam services at funerals while the Conservatives and SNP also threw out  a suggestion of price hikes for memorial benches.

Bereaved Perth and Kinross families to be charged for streaming funeral services

However, common ground could not be found on all policies.

The SNP group were accused of putting zero money into economic recovery.

Conservative councillor John Duff said: “Our business economy has taken a severe hit over the 12 months of this pandemic and I think local businesses will be absolutely shocked at the total lack of investment in our economy within the SNP budget.”

In turn, the SNP blamed the Tories for presenting “old money as new” in community funding.

SNP councillor Eric Drysdale said: “I’m deeply disappointed but not surprised that the Tories are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of voters presenting old money as new in terms of investment in communities.”

In the Conservative budget the council, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Growbiz, will invest £175,000 to provide match-funding for business which undertake crowdfunding.

Marketing to promote Perth and Kinross in the form of a Visitor Management Fund for rural communities was given £250,000.

A total of £160,000 was set aside for community initiatives that would support people to lead “independent, healthy and active lives”.

School meals and parking charges to rise as Perth and Kinross Council grapples with £17m black hole

The SNP budget had put forward spending of over £1 million for similar projects.

Plans to increase the price of school meals by 10p has been deferred to next year, despite an SNP proposal to reduce them.

Road infrastructure will receive a £14 million investment as the council attempts to catch up on issues that were left untreated during the pandemic.

Mr Duff said: “I want to see our roads services move ahead at top speed to catch up and overtake where the condition of our roads needs to be.

“With the potholes of the previous winter unable to be properly addressed during 2020 due to the pandemic and the restrictions imposed on road works last year, this has naturally affected present road conditions.”

Locals across Tayside and Fife left furious as councils struggle to tackle ‘sheet ice’ on roads

In education, £272,000 will be invested in a virtual campus and an expansion of course choices.

The administration party’s plans drew support from independents and the Lib Dems following a number of concessions.

An additional £240,000 is now going towards a pilot scheme for a ranger service while £200,000 from the roads budget is earmarked for road safety measures including 20mph signs around schools.

The long-awaited PH20 project featured on both the Labour and independents budgets with the latter proposing a contribution of £5 million to support the construction of a new swimming pool.

The project was not part of the Tory budget but council leader Murray Lyle said the new Perth pool was still one of his administration’s goals.

The Conservative budget was passed by 25 votes to 13 with Alasdair Bailey of Labour abstaining.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Lyle said: “I think some of the other groups appreciate the funding we were putting in, especially the funding we’ve put into roads.”

He said it was “a balanced budget”, highlighting money in education and for vulnerable children.

Mr Lyle also said he wanted to be “pro-active” when it came to the challenges of dirty campers and tourism in agreeing to implement the two year pilot scheme for a rangers service which emerged from the Labour and independents budget.

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