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D&G Council Leader Steps Down After Torys Win Budget Vote

Dumfries and Galloway Council met as a Full Council today (Tuesday 28 February) to agree its budget and set the council tax level for financial year 2023/24. After Losing the Budget Vote to the Conservatives Stephen Thompson (SNP)Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council said his position was untenable as a result of the vote and is to step down.

Conservative Group Leader,  Cllr Gail Macgregor said,

“I am pleased our budget has been approved today, The Administration has been in disarray for some time now and the events of today with two budgets being tabled by Administration partners magnified this, they couldn’t even agree on their collective priorities or which way to vote.

“By contrast our balanced budget offered prudence and a sustained vision for the region.  A comprehensive Roads Improvement Programme, continued support for individuals, families and households to assist with Cost of Living pressures and protecting Education, which is pivotal as pupils continue to catch up post COVID and in the wake of recent strikes.
“Today, we also agreed an ambitious Council Plan for the next 5 years. Delivering  on that plan must now be our precision focus, the residents of Dumfries and Galloway deserve and expect nothing less of us.
“Now is the time for calm heads, positive leadership and the collaborative and inclusive Council many have talked of, but never truly delivered. I intend  to offer an invigorated approach which will put our Council, it’s staff, service users, residents, businesses, delivery partners and the region at the heart of everything we do.

Following the meeting of Full meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Archie Dryburgh Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council Labour Group said,

“The Labour Group have repeatedly attempted to secure an agreement for a budget proposal that is fair for the residents of Dumfries and Galloway. The Labour Group produced a budget that would protect education spend, invest in the regions roads, invest nearly £3million in tackling the cost of living crisis and put the lowest council tax rise possible for local residents.
Even as it became clear that not all Independent Councillors would vote for the SNP/Independent budget, neither the SNP or Independent Group Leaders would seriously negotiate or indeed vote for the Labour Group budget proposals which would have inflicted the lowest possible council tax rise for households across Dumfries and Galloway.
The Labour Group is disappointed that the Conservative budget has passed as a result of Independent Councillors failing to support their own budget.
The Labour Group is committed to working with all parties on the Council to deliver for the region.”

Elected members agreed a council tax increase of 6% to help protect services.

The Council faces a raft of cost pressures from pay uplifts to inflationary increases and, when compared against the funding being made available, it has an estimated funding gap of £40 million over the next three years.

Increasing council tax is one of a range of measures the council is taking in an effort to balance its books including reducing energy usage within Council buildings and a focus on digital service redesign.

But the Council is investing, too. More than £30 million has been earmarked as part of the budget agreed today to improve the condition of the roads and infrastructure across Dumfries and Galloway.

This investment – to run over the next five financial years – will see a major increase in the amount of roads maintenance undertaken each year by Dumfries and Galloway Council; that’s more potholes repaired, more improvements to road drainage, more repairs to bridges and more repairs to footpaths.

Dumfries and Galloway Council Chief Executive Dawn Roberts said: “In today’s debate at Full Council members across all political groups agreed the need for a significant increase in the budget for roads maintenance – in line with feedback from communities throughout the region. This investment will mean better quality roads, increased investment in the local economy and more local employment opportunities.
“The five-year investment will see the budget for road repairs increase by around 50%. As we plan this major programme of road repairs, we will do everything we can to keep local communities informed.”

Dumfries and Galloway Council is responsible for one of the biggest road networks in Scotland with: 2,611 miles of roads, 823 miles of footways, 1,307 bridges and over 24,000 street lights.

To deliver such a big increase in investment, the size of the Council roads workforce will increase by more than 20%, creating opportunities for local people to join the local authority in good quality jobs delivering this critical service in their community.

Assistance with the cost of living also features in the budget proposals agreed today.

A wide range of projects from tackling low income through to reducing fuel poverty are outlined in the budget – with the Council investing £2m of its budget in cost-of-living support in financial year 2023/2024.

The Council operates and administers a range of support funds that assist those who need it most, and this budget sees spend in areas like period poverty, free school meals and community transport.

Although some allocations remain the same as the 22/23 budget, such as Summer of Play (£264k), there have been increases in the budget allocated to key projects with £130k now allocated to the Taxi Card Transport Scheme and funding to the third sector rising to £130k.

Dawn Roberts added: “Elected members were keen to prioritise cost-of-living support as reflected in today’s budget.”

Under the Local Government [Scotland] Act 1973 and the Local Government Finance Act 1992, a local authority must set its council tax before mid-March in the preceding financial year. A council is required to set council tax based on an overall balanced budget for the financial year.

Based on a 6% increase, council tax bandings will be charged as shown below for financial year 2023/24:

Council Tax Banding Current Rate p/a (£) New Rate p/a (£) Increase p/a (£)
A 839.53 889.90 50.37
B 979.46 1038.21 58.75
C 1119.38 1186.53 67.15
D 1259.30 1334.85 75.55
E 1654.58 1753.84 99.26
F 2046.36 2169.13 122.77
G 2466.13 2614.08 147.95
H 3085.29 3270.38 185.09

 

You can see the Full Council meeting via our website Dumfries and Galloway Council Meetings – Dumfries and Galloway Council (dumgal.gov.uk) and you can view the meeting papers at Agenda for Dumfries and Galloway Council on Tuesday, 28 February, 2023, 10.30 am – Dumfries and Galloway Council (moderngov.co.uk) including the approved budget and political group covering document.