Following Tuesday’s public consultation meeting at Culloden Academy about budget cuts, Highland Greens have today denounced the exercise as a charade, claiming Councillors are hiding behind officials’ coat-tails in failing to state openly their own political Parties’ cuts proposals.
Neil Hornsby, Highlands and Islands Greens’ campaigns’ co-ordinator, said: “Councillors are hiding behind officials’ coat-tails in failing to state openly their political Parties’ cuts proposals. All we have been presented with are Council officials’ suggestions for cuts. What use are they? Does this mean that in the officials’ view other areas are not options for cuts? This way, we have no way of knowing Councillors’ political predilections until August, by which time much may well already be signed and sealed.
“Councillors are directly accountable to the electorate. From the outset, they should have been up front about their own proposals for cuts, based on their political judgements of priorities, and taking account of officials’ advice. These could then have been refined in the light of this first consultation, and then put forward for the further consultation later in the Summer.
“It is one thing for officials to have discussed possible options for cuts with Councillors behind closed doors. But it is outrageous that Councillors saw fit to simply channel these proposals into the public arena, and disclaim all responsibility for them.
“As it is, all we have been presented with is a ludicrous range of options, including axing the Floral Hall, a 15% cut to the libraries budget, a 25% cut to the museums budget, yet only a 3% cut to the roads maintenance budget.
“Many of these cuts would be unnecessary if the Councillors challenged the supermarkets to meet a major proportion of the Council’s vast £25 million annual waste management bill. Supermarkets are responsible for generating much of the packaging that is recycled or goes to landfill. They make billions in profits every year, and should be required to meet the waste management costs of their own products.