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INCREASE LESS THAN EXPECTED
HOW much should Argyll and Bute Council raise Council Tax by was the question debated at a full Council meeting to decide the budget yesterday (Thursday).
The local authority needed to make £2m worth of savings across departments and a motion tabled by the Non-Aligned Group suggested increasing Council Tax by 2.5 per cent, a drastic reduction on last years predication of 3.9 per cent.
However, to achieve the 2.5 per cent increase cuts totalling £187,000 had to be made to services such as road resurfacing and other requirements of the Transportation and Property Department.
Amongst other tough decisions, £101,000 was also slashed from the Social Work Department, meaning a reduction in home care hours.
These proposals did not find favour with Rainbow Alliance Councillors, who argued that the Council Tax should rise by the projected 3.9 per cent to safeguard such services.
They argued that the difference between a 3.9 per cent or a 2.5 per cent increase is only £14 and that services such as Transportation and Property could not take any more cuts to their budget.
The councils Resources Spokesperson, Councillor George Freeman in presenting the aims of the budget said: Once again we find ourselves having to make further major savings, in the past £25m has been cut from our budget and this year we have to find £2m in savings. It is unacceptable, but we have no choice.
Central government have placed further financial burdens on us without extra money being allocated, this is seen with policies such as the McCrone Settlement. Why should the Council Tax Payer part fund Scottish Executive policies?
There has also been mismatch funding from government grant allocations, because of this Argyll and Bute Council Tax payers have had to pay significantly more and have received lower levels of service. We have to keep pushing this message to government, these problems have been created by them and only they can solve them. I would call on them to address these problems.
What we have tried to do with the budget is to achieve savings in as painless a way as possible.
We have tried to keep the Council Tax increase to a reasonable level.
We also propose moving more cash to Area Committees to give them the opportunity to address problems in their own areas and wards.
Each Area Committee in Argyll and Bute, will be allocated £100,000 in capital. How the capital allocation should be spent will be set by a criteria to be decided by the next meeting of the Strategic Policy Committee in March.
After heated debate on how much Council Tax should rise a vote was taken and the 2.5 per cent increase and measures proposed by the Non-Aligned Party was passed by 18 votes to 16.
This will take the average bill for houses in the band D bracket from £984 to £1,009.
In 2003/2004 it is projected that Council Tax will rise by 2.9 per cent taking the average figure from £1,009 to £1,038.
Spokesman for the local branch of the Scottish Socialist Party, Des Divers responded to the news of an increase by calling for Council Tax to be abolished.
He said: The people of Argyll and Bute find themselves facing another hike in their Council Tax, although not as high as predicted, it will still affect the poorest people in society.
This surely strengthens the case of the Scottish Socialist Party campaign for the abolition of the Council Tax and replacing it with the Scottish Service Tax.
This change would shift local taxation from low and middle incomes to higher income households, resulting in four out of five people in Scotland better off under our proposals.
SUDDEN DEATH UNDER INVESTIGATION
FOLLOWING the discovery of a male body in the burn at Dunoon Cemetery last Wednesday, the deceased has been named as 15 year old Kyle Graham.
A spokesman for Strathclyde Police, Dunoon, stated that inquiries are still ongoing into the circumstances of the death.
Kyle was a pupil at Dunoon Grammar School and, although he was known to play truant, he was described by his mother, Angela, as an intelligent boy and her best friend.
She said: All I know is my son was found dead in a cemetery, I cant take this in. He was my only child and he was my best friend.
News of Kyles death was broken to his fellow pupils last Thursday.
Argyll and Bute Councils Director of Education Archie Morton said: The staff and pupils at Dunoon Grammar School were very sorry to learn of this boys death. Our thoughts are with his family.
WALK OBJECTIONS LODGED
FORTY-ONE objections have been lodged with Argyll and Bute Council, concerning the proposed Orange Walk in Dunoon on July 6.
The response from the public means that it is likely a report about the issue will go before Bute and Cowal Area Committee. They will then make a decision on whether a hearing should be held on the matter.
If a hearing does go ahead, members of the public who sent letters of objection will be able to attend and voice their concerns on the matter.
Currently the council have received no response from the police or the roads department on the application, although replies are expected imminently.
However, details of the timing and route of the proposed march can be revealed, according to the application the parade will convene at Dunoon Stadium at 12.30pm and end back at the stadium around 2pm.
The route requested is from Dunoon Stadium, down Argyll Street to Queen Street, down to Alexandra Parade, along the parade and up Tom-a-Mhoid Road and will take in Hillfoot Street before heading down Ferry Brae to Argyll Street and back to the stadium.
Head of the councils Amenity Services, Terry Markwick, also confirmed this week that an application to provisionally book Dunoon Stadium for July 6 has been made.
The County Grand Lodge of Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and Argyll submitted the request, but it is unclear what type of event is being proposed.
Currently Mr Markwick says there are no details of what facilities are required for use by the group, such as the stadiums grandstand or pitches.
His department is also trying to ascertain the number of people who are expected to visit the stadium on the day and whether or not stalls will be used.
He said: The application will be assessed on health and safety grounds, and many different officials could be involved, for instance if it is proposed to have food stalls at the stadium, then Environmental Health would have to be consulted.
Further details of the proposed event are expected to become available over the coming weeks.
Letters of objection to the parade are still being submitted, the most recent being drafted by Dunoon Community Council.
If members of the public wish to write a letter of objection about the proposals they should send it to the councils Head of Corporate and Legal Services, Nigel Stewart, Argyll and Bute Council, Kilmory, Lochgilphead.
SENSE HAS FINALLY PREVAILED
RESIDENTS of Colintraive and Bute are delighted at the news that no fixed link is to be built between the island and the mainland.
The revelation came at last weeks Argyll and Bute Councils Strategic Policy Committee meeting, when Councillors agreed that the move to build fixed links throughout the county was too costly and that they should look again at ferry services to the islands as an alternative.
A spokeswoman for the Glendaruel and Colintraive Community Council said: We are very relieved that sense has finally prevailed.
A fixed link between Colintraive and Rhubodach would have destroyed our community and there would have been no benefits to it, only disadvantages!
It was discovered that the cheapest option to build a bridge between Coll and Tiree was £58million!
Council Leader Allan Macaskill said: It is recommended that no further action be taken on fixed links at this current time, but that the council should go back and look at ferry services to the islands and see how they should be improved.
He also revealed that the council did not have the money to build a fixed link.
Feasibility studies were carried out, by consultants Scott Wilson Scotland, into fixed links to Bute, Luing and between Coll and Tiree.
The findings of this illustrated that the people of Colintraive and Bute were largely opposed to the idea.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE FOR SEAFOOD STOCKS
LOCH Fyne Oysters, and its sister company Loch Fyne Restaurants, has demonstrated to the nation its support of the products that sustain its good name by removing the endangered species from its exquisite menu.
The seafood restaurants have taken three species of fish off their menu over fears that the fish face extinction.
Loch Fyne has stopped serving monkfish, skate and swordfish, following a warning from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) that overfishing has put them at risk.
Andrew Lane of Loch Fyne Oysters said: We founded Loch Fyne Marine Trust (LFMT) to safeguard and enhance the fishing stocks and biodiversity.
LFMT has also helped to fund the MCS book Good Fish Guide, which has a list of 20 of the most endangered commercial species, and we have adhered to this advice.
We are now using haddock from Iceland, instead of the North Sea, and we invite everybody else in the seafood sector to join with us and preserve these endangered species.
He continued: This really is a serious issue and the politicians and civil servants have done nothing! However, the people that can really have an affect are those within the fish sector, including supermarkets.
Managing Director of the Restaurants, Mark Derry, stated that fish are very adept at replenishing stocks, but only when given a chance.
The dishes have been replaced at the 17 UK based Restaurants with wild and farmed alternatives.
A spokeswoman for the MCS added: We dont want people to stop eating fish, but we do need to see a wider variety of abundant species and a chance for overfished species to recover.
ALL DOWN TO ONE MAN
ONE of Britains most successful missions behind enemy lines in wartime Yugoslavia was down to one man - local author and hero Sir Fitzroy Maclean.
This revelation comes after previously secret papers were released this week by the Public Record Office.
And they also showed that Sir Fitzroy was the target of a last-minute sabotage effort by a Government Minister, supposedly in charge of the project.
Lord Selborne, who was the Minister for Economic Welfare and the man in charge of Britains secret Special Operations Executive (SOE), fought to downgrade Sir Fitzroys clandestine role in organising and assisting Yugoslav partisans under Tito, because Sir Fitzroy was Prime Minister Winston Churchills Personal Envoy and, as such, was sent independent of the SOE to Yugoslavia.
The recently released papers detail Lord Selbornes underhand tactics.
Lord Selborne was disgruntled as Sir Fitzroy had the full backing of Winston Churchill.
He realised he could not hope to overturn the Prime Ministers decision to parachute Sir Fitzroy behind enemy lines into Yugoslavia to lead the British Military Mission, and that the best he could hope for was that Sir Fitzroy would not be allowed total authority over UK military assistance and supplies to the partisans.
It followed that Sir Fitzroy was mistrusted by both Lord Selborne and the SOE top brass, in particular Lord Glenconner, in the Middle-East, after he was promoted to Brigadier with just one year under his belt as a Captain.
Yet Churchill saw this unorthodox approach as perfect for Yugoslavia, even admiring Sir Fitzroys method for transferring from the Foreign Office to uniform.
He stood in a by-election, as an MP cannot be prevented from joining up.
The papers also show that Lord Selborne even fought a last minute losing battle to clip Sir Fitzroys wings in Yugoslavia.
A secret memorandum to wartime Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden saw Lord Selborne admit that he fully recognised Sir Fitzroys qualities as an Officer. However, he added that he felt that he would work better if he were not head of the mission.
He also confessed that he was not qualified to discuss military matters, but none the less he continued to offer his opinion - even after Winston Churchill made it clear that Sir Fitzroy would be head of the mission to the partisans.
He was reported as saying: Since the Prime Minister and you both feel strongly about Macleans appointment, and attach importance to it, I should not like to hold the matter up by expressing opposition. I do, nevertheless, adhere to the views which I expressed to you of yesterday and think, from a military point of view, it would be a mistake to make Maclean head of mission.
Yet, Sir Fitzroys mission in Yugoslavia proved one of the most successful SOE operations of the war.
As soon as he landed in Yugoslavia, he had to make a major decision over which group of Yugoslav freedom fighters the UK should support.
He quickly concluded that Titos organisation was hungriest for the battle and the most likely to hold up in the Balkans German divisions that could be deployed elsewhere from the frontline, and he ordered that most of the UK effort should be directed towards Tito.
Their actions tied up a massive number of German troops, who otherwise could have fought on the frontline.
And within weeks of Sir Fitzroy parachuting behind enemy lines, Lord Glen-conner was recalled to London, amid criticism, as his Cairo mission was reorganised.
Sir Fitzroy died in June 1996. His son Charles still resides at the family home in Strachur.