West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC) passed its annual budget recently.

This was without doubt the most challenging financial period in the council’s history because of the SNP’s Scottish Government under-funding of the local authority.

WDC is under significant pressure as a direct result of sustained cuts to its revenue funding from the SNP Government since 2007.

This has culminated in over £30 million of recurring savings having to be made to vital services over this period and the depletion of our council’s reserves.

The Tory Government in Westminster has no regard for local government and public services.

However, the SNP Scottish Government have turbocharged the Tories austerity agenda by imposing even bigger cuts to councils across Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s claim that a council tax freeze was fully funded by them is false.

The residents of West Dunbartonshire are fully aware that the cuts to council funding and the inevitable impact on the provision of vital community services are entirely the fault of the SNP Scottish Government.

The SNP has demonstrated complete contempt for local government and coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, this is impacting ever-increasing numbers of our local residents.

The Labour Administration at WDC are acutely aware of the need to protect services and jobs for local people and despite this unhelpful political and financial context set up by the SNP, WDC is still legally required to set a balanced budget.

Therefore, Council Tax will be frozen this year which will result in savings across council services to close the budget gap created by the SNP Scottish Government. 

West Dunbartonshire residents will recognise the hypocrisy of local SNP Councillors complaining about this despite the fact their party is the architect of these cuts.

The SNP’s only answer is to wipe out all reserves and a suggestion of a budget for bankruptcy which would have had disastrous consequences for WDC over the next two or three years.

Instead, we moved a balanced budget having listened to the concerns of local residents and organisations, and in doing so, we protected the grant funding for vital groups such as Shopmobility, the Antonine Sports Centre, the Working 4U Service and West Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau. 

We protected the Elderly Welfare Grant, we maintained the school clothing grant and the Education Maintenance Allowance. 

We refused to close our local bowling clubs, and we rejected the proposal to close or reduce Dalmuir Municipal Golf Course.

The Labour Administration announced the introduction of Early Start Clubs across our primary schools with the abolition of the charge for those pupils who are entitled to free school meals, and we rejected the proposal to close St Eunan’s and Linnvale Out of School Care Services.  

We also announced funding to support Tontine Food Parcels, Lomond Food Pantry and Time for Tully who provide vital services to the most vulnerable across our community.

The underfunding of local government is unlikely to change over the next three years. 

Many have commented where will all this end? Well, we have an opportunity to bring about change, the type of change that only a Labour Government at Westminster can deliver and that is by voting Labour in West Dunbartonshire in the General Election this year and help bring to an end two failing governments and get rid of the Tories and the SNP. 

Change is possible with Scottish Labour.