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Budget meeting drama

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Budget meeting drama

A DRAMATIC budget meeting on Tuesday resulted in a blurry picture of who is actually in charge of Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The Conservatives – who seized control from the coalition administration during last year’s budget meeting – were stunned as their proposals for the year ahead failed to gain enough votes.

Instead the opposition SNP budget was surprisingly backed by the Labour Group, along with some independent councillors, and was voted through 22-20.

When this scenario happened in reverse last year, SNP Group leader Stephen Thompson immediately stepped down saying his position was “untenable”.

But there has been no similar announcement so far from the Conservatives and, as things stand, the Tories are presiding over an SNP budget.

However that may change as discussions between the Conservatives, Labour, SNP, independents, and one Lib Dem councillor take place over the coming days.

And it is likely the SNP Group will take charge 12 months on from being deposed.

Their leader and Annandale North Councillor Stephen Thompson said: “We were really pleased to get support for our budget across the council chamber. I expect there will be a lot of discussions between councillors in the coming days but I don’t really know right now what will develop.

“There were a lot of similarities in all the budgets. We wanted to prioritise cost of living initiatives and keep work on the roads a priority, as well as support additional support needs transport.”

He added that there is likely to be more funding incoming from the government in March, which will then allow education to be looked at more closely, and some cost savings to be revisited.

Meanwhile, Labour are taking credit for a better investment in education in the year ahead, forcing the other groups to amend their own proposals in line with Labour ideas.

Councillor Carolyne Wilson, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “This is a significant win for the Labour Group as our budget proposals, borrowed by the SNP, technically won out on the day.”

Meanwhile, a council tax freeze was agreed, however a 100 per cent council tax increase on second homes is being introduced to generate £1.66m per year.

Additionally, £1.827m has been set aside for the cost of living crisis and paying for different initiatives to increase income for people in the community and help them reduce their expenditure.

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