Fife’s opposition parties are putting the finishing touches to spending plans that are expected to be voted down regardless by the majority of councillors.
The local authority’s SNP/Labour joint administration will formally table its 2021/22 budget at a special meeting on Thursday morning, when the local authority will outline what is likely to be spent where over the coming months.
Fifers have already been put on notice that council tax levels will be frozen, while there will also be a one-year rent increase of 1.5% for council houses – adding £1.13 to the average rent cost.
What else the administration’s budget proposals will bring remains to be seen, but Fife Conservative group leader Councillor Dave Dempsey has revealed their budget will aim to “fix Fife” – starting with what he describes as the public’s “biggest issue”, the state of the roads.
Mr Dempsey said: “It’s high time Fifers got a council budget that addresses what they want, not what politicians think they ought to want.
“Everyone knows that number one is the state of the roads.
“The council’s finances can cope with substantial increases, both for temporary fixes for potholes and the like and for the full resurfacing that stops the holes reforming.
“The ruling coalition has hinted at more money. Let’s see if that’s serious money and not just lip service.”
Mr Dempsey added that the Tories will propose other improvements such as longer opening hours for leisure facilities and recycling centres, as soon as Covid regulations allow, and a specialist squad dedicated to combatting flytipping.
And he added: “We’ll be giving greater control to Fife’s seven areas, so that decisions can be made by councillors who know their areas and who are accountable to the voters there.
“For too long, our political masters have practiced centrally controlled decentralisation, saying all the right things but keeping their hands on the cash needed to actually make things happen.
“As we come out the pandemic, we need to do better than before. We can start on Thursday.”
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have expressed disappointment that its call for a rent freeze was rejected by the administration.
Councillor Jonny Tepp, Lib Dem member for the Tay Bridgehead, explained: “The impact of the proposed increase amounts to around £60 per year on households that pay their own council house rent.
“At the same time, the Scottish Government has essentially imposed a council tax freeze amounting to a benefit of around £60 per annum for households paying £2000 in council tax.
“It is not hard to see that the combined impact of these policies is widening inequality notwithstanding any safety nets that the Scottish Government and Fife Council wish to put in place.”
Labour councillor Judy Hamilton branded the Lib Dems bid to maintain current rent levels as nothing more than an attempt at “headline grabbing”, adding that the rise had the backing of 62% of tenants groups who were consulted prior to setting the increase.
She said: “This is a modest increase that will mean services won’t be cut and comes as part of a £250m overall financial commitment to housing, maintaining and improving housing stock and putting us on track to meet our target of 1,500 new council homes being built this year.”