Difficult decisions were made today (Thursday February 21) as Stirling Council voted on their annual budget for 2019/20.
The vote saw the council approve a budget which aims to protect the most vulnerable in society, but not without sacrifice.
Residents living in the Stirling Council area will see a four per cent hike in council tax charges, which for many will have serious financial implications.
As students, we are incredibly lucky not to have to pay council tax. But as soon as we graduate, we will be faced with these ever rising costs which will eat into our monthly salary.
At present, depending on what Council Tax band you are living in, you could be charged anything between £821 and £3020 a year. This is only set to increase. Four per cent might not seem like a lot but in a world where people live from paycheck to paycheck, four per cent can have a huge effect, especially in working class households.
Further bad news came in the form of increased parking charges. Castleview Park and Ride at Viewforth, which was previously free to use, will now charge users for its service. This will undoubtedly put off the hundreds of people that use the service for the daily commute, and will also affect tourists.
So where is all this extra money going? Some of the proposals backed at today’s meeting included spending £4.6 million on improving the roads in and around Stirling. The council will also invest £5.5 million to improve education, in particular by expanding early education and childcare.
It has became apparent that even with the council tax increase, the council will still be struggling financially.
It is expected that over the next five years, there will be a gap of £32 million in between what the Council receives in funding and how much it will actually cost to provide the public services outlined in the budget.
There was no concrete solution to this at today’s meeting, however, the council will be working to address the issue in future budget setting.
Councillor Margaret Brisley, Convenor of Stirling Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, said she was proud of the budget passed today, but also said it was essential that savings be made in the future.
Councillor Brisley said: “Today’s budget is one that reflects both the financial environment we have to operate in, but also our continued pledge to the people of Stirling.
The committee’s Vice Convener Councillor Alison Laurie said: “Setting the budget in such challenging financial times is not a simple task, so we have approached this year’s finances with caution and restraint.”
She also warned that “there are extremely difficult decisions to be made again on the horizon”.