Council reject SNP cash plan to restore safety crossings

Photo Emma Mitchell 01.08.16
Traffic problems at Catherine Street Junction
Photo Emma Mitchell 01.08.16 Traffic problems at Catherine Street Junction

A plea by SNP councillors 
to allocate cash to restore safety crossings at Kirkintilloch town centre has been rejected.

The decision was made at a full meeting of East Dunbartonshire Council on Thursday, where it was also agreed to increase 
council tax by three per cent.

This will deliver an additional income of almost £1.8 million in revenue to the council for the year.

But the ruling Labour/Tory 
administration turned down the SNP Group’s proposal, in their alternative capital budget, to allocate £194,700 to restore the traffic lights at Catherine Street.

The lights were switched off as part of the controversial shared space project.

On Monday, Strathkelvin MSP Rona Mackay branded the decision as “shameful”.

She said she had asked council leader Rhondda Geekie to put the reinstatement of the crossings on the agenda at last week’s full council meeting after Councillor Geekie admitted on BBC Radio Scotland that the junction hadn’t worked and could be reversed.

Ms Mackay said: “I am astonished at this shameful decision. Rhondda Geekie clearly has no intention of making this crossing safer, despite repeated pleas from myself and residents.

“The cost of £194,700 to restore the crossing – despite being inflated in my opinion because the infrastructure is still in place – is in the SNP budget and it will be used to 
restore the crossing if the SNP form the administration after May’s election.

“The SNP voted against this shared space scheme from the outset but have not had the power to do anything about it because they were always 
outvoted”.

At Thursday’s meeting, Councillor Gordon Low (SNP) said it was hard to find anyone in Kirkintilloch who thought the 
junction was working safely.

He added: “It particularly affects partially sighted 
people.”

Councillor Geekie responded: “There are actually pedestrian crossings in Kirkintilloch. I’m not saying it’s working but it is supported by a pilot group, the ‘champions’ who represent the 
public”.

She added: “I do know people who support the scheme.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the council agreed a range of measures to deliver the required £11.3 million in savings for 2017/18 with an increase in council tax of three per cent and no enforced job losses or service reductions.

The rise will see council tax on a Band D property go up from £1,141.85 to £1,176.11 - a rise of £34.26 per year. Householders in band E to H properties will face an additional rise after the Scottish Government voted to raise the charges for these bandings at the end of last year.

Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “The three per cent increase is not the only council tax rise – but it is the element that this council can control.

“The Scottish government has introduced an increase in council tax on all band E to H properties across Scotland in addition to any local increases we make.

“Properties in Band E to H will therefore see significant increases to their council tax bills for the coming year, ranging from an additional £104 for Band E to £513 for Band H as a result of the Scottish Government increase and before the council agreed three per cent rise is applied.”

She added: “We have continued to take a three-way approach to balancing the budget this year, through our capital investment programme, our transformation programme to deliver service efficiencies and specific savings proposals to the revenue budget.

“The effective use of our capital programme and capital funding, which enables us to deliver our new state of the art schools, our new Community Hubs and our town centre improvements also enables us to generate such substantial savings from our extremely challenged revenue budget.

“We have again ensured that our budget has prioritised services to the most vulnerable in our communities”.

The SNP group put forward some successful amendments to the revenue budget, including a commitment to report back to the council for consideration and approval any plans which will affect school management structures, after full engagement with headteachers and teaching unions.

They also successfully added two pilot schemes, one for a Breakfast Club where it is most needed and another to allow more schools access to leisure trust facilities to increase physical exercise.