In these heightened times of political attention. That major parties are falling over themselves to tell how they will circle the tricky square of reducing the deficit while promising not to raise taxes, it is a magic act worthy of Penn and Teller. This ability not to raise taxes and keep providing services is a dream for every administration everywhere euphemistically wrapped up it terms like efficiency savings. The problem with this is that after 5 years of efficiency savings the gains do not match up to the amounts needed to balance the books. In Scotland the SNP administration managed to negotiate such magic with the local authorities, Local authorities agree to provide the same service, for a budget set by the SNP on the condition of no council tax rises to fund this.
The problem with magic is once you know how its done, it looses it lustre. the mystery disappears and you can see whats happening behind the smoke and mirrors. Currently my local authority is considering how to balance its budget. so it has made a couple of changes, it has changed the provision of registration services for the area, concentrating the provision within the Hamilton area of Scotland, (too much local protest). It has removed free milk from primary school children replacing this with cold water. The current proposal is to remove existing free bus transport from young people who live within more than 2 miles but less than 3 miles from the school they attend. The council have the right to do this, as the legislation from the Scottish Government specifies a legal obligation to provide transport for young people 3 miles or more from the local secondary school.
Yet I disagree with this decision. The area I live in is predominantly rural, with 70 per cent of people living in 20 per cent of the land. I am within the change zone, meaning my soon to be young people would be required to walk to school should the change go ahead. For part of their proposed walk to school the young people would have to walk alongside the A70, a major trunk road for South Lanarkshire and the main route from Ayr to Edinburgh. The part of the A70 the children would walk alongside would not have a pavement, the side of the road with a verge means crossing at a major junction which has no crossing helps such as traffic lights or a crossing of any kind.
To me I think making cuts like this and the free milk in school is asking for trouble. The council I think is hamstring by the basic agreement with the Scottish Government and have no way out (And political party which came into power would be foolish to do away with this arrangement). The local council look like the bad guy stealing the Milk while the government who sets the budget amount for each area, can blame them for the cuts.
It strikes me we need to better hold our elected officials to account. The guy who ran the BBC programme Newsnight in an interview recently said what we want to hear from our elected officials is along the lines of “here is our plan, now let me tell you the 4 worse options which when faced with made this the least worst option.” I have no doubt that if this cut is avoided a cut will fall somewhere else and will seriously affect another persons quality of life, but in the absence of a larger conversation, the absence of actually asking the electorate how they would engage with this budget and service requirements. The only way to engage is to object.
So I signed to object and would encourage you to as well. You can to here https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-south-lanarkshire-changes-to-free-bus-transport-to-school