Fife Conservatives have branded this week’s SNP/Labour budget as “timid and dull” and suggested their amendment offered a “bolder vision” of where the region needs to go.
However, the administration has defended its financial plans for the coming year, stressing once more the budget puts Fife and its people first.
Council tax will be increased by 3% from April, which equates to £2.88 a month for a band D household and will raise more than £4.1 million to put towards local services.
The Tories’ alternative package of measures, including a council tax freeze, was voted down, along with proposals tabled by the Liberal Democrats.
Councillor Dave Dempsey, Tory group leader, feels it was an opportunity missed.
“Fife Council officers know what can be done to transform the council,” he said.
“All we need are politicians prepared to back them. Particularly nonsensical is the decision to charge at park and rides.
“‘Psychology for Dummies’ will tell you that encouraging the public to do something and then penalising them for doing it is plain daft.
“Unfortunately, the pair of parties that currently run Fife see the bulk of the public as a source of taxes and not much else.”
Tory spokesman on health and social care, Councillor David J Ross, also attacked criticism levelled at his party during Thursday’s meeting for pursuing plans to externalise care home provision to save £1million per year.
“The other parties are wedded to expensive in-house provision for ideological reasons,” he said.
“They just can’t bring themselves to admit that in public.”
Council co-leader David Ross slammed the Tory budget, suggesting their proposals showed the “Tory mask had slipped”.
“They’ve reverted to type, valuing tax cuts at any cost whilst being happy to slash services – proposing further unnecessary cuts to education, to health and social care, and to homeless services.
“We don’t want to make cuts; in fact we want to expand and improve services to meet the real needs we see every day in our local communities.
“We have protected education as far as we can and have made a fair funding allocation to the Health and Social Care Partnership. If, as forecasts suggest, there’s budget remaining at the end of this financial year we’ll invest up to another £1m in health and social care, starting with the befriending project.
“We’ve also committed to directing any surplus to economic development in mid Fife, where we know there are specific challenges.”
SNP councillor Karen Marjoram, who seconded the budget motion, highlighted proposals such as an increase in discretionary funding of the Scottish Welfare Fund in Fife to mitigate the impacts of Universal Credit; consolidating school breakfast clubs and holiday provision; raising the school clothing grant; and building on existing employability programmes to help Fifers into jobs.
She said: “A budget is all about choices so, for example, we choose to invest in the expansion of breakfast clubs, because we know that if children start the day without an empty tummy it helps their educational attainment.
“But it’s also about what we’ve chosen not to do, such as supporting big increases in charges for health and social care services like meals on wheels and community alarms.”