Last year the headline grabbing news from the Perth and Kinross Council (PKC) proposed budget was very similar to the headlines from this year.
We reported on public toilets, school crossing patrols and recycling centres. Also mentioned were the removal of path treatments outside working hours, grounds maintenance reductions and a reduction in teaching staff.
When the budget was finally approved there was much celebration that most of the above proposed savings had been rejected. However, this celebration avoided the wide ranging publicity of where costs were being cut.
The property maintenance budget was to be reduced by £808,000 in 2018/19. This has again been earmarked for a further reduction in 1921/22 of £375,000.
Secondary teacher numbers were cut and garden waste charges introduced at a rate £10 higher per annum than initially proposed.
Where does that leave us for this year?
Will we again be told how wonderful it is that PKC have managed to save crossing patrols and/or recycling centres? Maybe the huge hike proposed for music lessons will be reduced and used as a positive move? Could swimming lessons for primary school pupils be retained?
All fantastic if they happen but will most likely hide the other costs.
The proposed reduction in maintenance of paths, green spaces and roads network will have a huge effect on local communities. For PKC to suggest that local communities use volunteers to operate PKC supplied machinery to clear paths would seem to suggest that the council is retreating more and more into Perth and ignoring the wider area.
Last year showed us how publicity is given to proposals in the budget that local communities will object to. Obviously, these proposals are the ones reported and if they don’t go through it is seen as a success. This publicity reduces attention to some other items that may have just as big an impact on the wider community.
In this years proposed budget there is an item regarding Public Transport. It states “33% reduction in Tendered Services budget. The total budget is £2m and the saving could be anything up to this figure.” Which would imply that PKC would allow this proposed 33% reduction to increase to a 100% reduction.
It then goes on to state – Impact Analysis and Risk Assessment
Promote Fairness/Reduce Inequality/Address Socio Economic Disadvantage: Access to transport is a key issue raised by the Fairness Commission in terms of employment, education and healthcare.
Workforce: No significant impact identified.
Customer: Significant impact on public transport travel opportunities, not just in rural areas, but also in parts of Perth City.
Equalities/Diversity: Reduced local bus service timetables will have an impact in terms of increased social exclusion, particularly in rural areas.
Outcome and Performance: Will result in contraction of the bus network, including some peak services, thus impacting on routes serving work, education and health related needs. Only skeleton Sunday and evening services are likely to remain on some corridors.
If this reduction is approved, it will have a huge impact on life for those anywhere outside Perth city centre.
Surprisingly there has been little about this proposed reduction in the media. Possibly because there is a lot of paperwork to wade through and it does not have quite the same impact.
However, a reduction in the public transport network will have a huge impact on our communities and the ability of our young an old to enjoy a wider range of services and amenities.
Rural communities in Perth and Kinross have in recent years seen a large amount of residential development. This development has very seldom been accompanied by improvements to community facilities or infrastructure.
As PKC now propose to reduce transport, roads and greenspace maintenance to these rural communities they are effectively cutting them off and leaving them in isolation.