Highland Greens have accused The Highland Council of using double standards, in being quick to involve the public in budget-cutting decisions, but not being willing to consult on their spending plans. Neil Hornsby, Highlands and Islands Greens’ Campaigns Co-ordinator, said:
“The LibDem-led Highland Council are quick enough to involve the public in difficult decisions about cuts in public services, and so absolve Councillors of any blame. But all that concern for public involvement goes out of the window when it comes to deciding where Council tax payers’ money should be spent.
“On 24 June the full Highland Council will take binding decisions on a range of capital projects, without having first discussed these proposals with the public. Where is the democracy in that? Instead they should initially consult widely, and seek a public consensus, in exactly the same way as they are carrying out the cuts exercise.
“As it is, the Council has prepared a long list of projects, about which the public has no say whatsoever.
“Though some of these projects are to be welcomed, including the ‘spend-to-save’ measures and the upgrade to Inverness Royal Academy, others are highly contentious.
“Most worrying is the proposed £16·5 million for the Inverness A9/A82 trunk-road link. Necessary though the canal/river crossing is, trunk roads are the responsibility of Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government, and should be wholly funded by them, not Highland Council Tax payers.
“This huge expenditure contrasts markedly with the miserly £1·3 million allocation to tourism and countryside access. Tourism is the Highlands’ main industry and should be far better supported. Projects such as a Floral Hall for Invergordon, which would be a major draw for the thousands of tourists arriving by cruise liner, are crying out for investment.
“The Council also intends spending over £1·5 million on the Inshes roundabout in Inverness. This is a very local concern, yet the proposed funding vastly exceeds that planned for cycling (£113,000), 20 MPH zones (£225,0000) and the Core paths network (£200,000) – all of which would be of Highland-wide benefit. Much of the congestion at the Inshes roundabout is closely related to the adjacent retail park, so the retailers themselves should be expected to finance the required improvements, not Council Tax payers.
“These spending plans are a major concern, and reflect the Council’s dubious political priorities. If the Council were sincere about democracy and community involvement, they would consult on spending plans, as well as cuts.