Perth and Kinross councillors voted in favour of the conservative budget presented on Wednesday, March 10.
The budget totalled £387 million, spending on what the Conservatives claim will ‘focus strongly on recovery’.
Interim Chief Executive Barbara Renton said: “Perth & Kinross Council is recognised for its prudent financial management and this pragmatism has never been more necessary as we continue to respond to the enormous challenges posed by COVID-19.
“This Budget will allow us to continue delivering essential services, and develop the PK Offer to make Perth and Kinross a better place for everyone who lives, works and visits here.”
The Conservative motion aimed to support ‘the recovery of children’s education, business, communities and recovery for our environment and infrastructure.’
Addressing fellow council members, Conservative Highland Ward Councillor, John Duff said: “It has been a long, hard year since 6th March 2020 when we last sat here, figuratively speaking, and set our Revenue Budget.
“Setting a budget is never easy, as we all know, but without the management of the excellent financial team which we are blessed with, it might have been nigh on impossible this year. So I commend the work of Stewart MacKenzie, Scott Walker and their team for everything they have achieved financially for this Council in the last 12 months.”
Mr Duff also proudly welcomed the £1.5 million investment into business from the administration which he says ‘aimed at supporting the recovery of our High Streets, tourist and visitor attractions, shops, businesses, jobs and workforce.’
Councillor Duff added: “Education features very strongly in our budget with investments in our Virtual Campus and access to qualifications and apprenticeships both of which will expand the academic and vocational course choice for all our pupils. Something which all parents will find very attractive. This will be supplemented by parallel work on a Tayside-wide Virtual Campus, which could see an even bigger range of subjects being offered across Perth and Kinross. Much to be welcomed there.
“Last year, we invested in the Highland Perthshire Learning Partnership and I was delighted to hear recently about the advances being made in senior phase education in my ward and I welcome the additional funding to cover transport costs as part of that Partnership.”
In addition, the council incorporated the proposal from the Independent and Labour group which sought to introduce a Perth and Kinross ranger programme as a two-year pilot.
After marking the passing of Cllrs Band and Anderson, independent Highland Ward councillor, Xander McDade said: “In addition we have provided thirty thousand pounds on a recurring basis for our local bloom and path groups who help keep our communities welcoming places for everyone. New border signage for our historic burghs will also promote a greater sense of place for visitors too.
“However, infrastructure alone is not enough to tackle our visitor pressures which is why today our group is proposing spending two hundred and forty thousand pounds to support the creation of a permanent ranger service.
“This new ranger service would work with our partner agencies and support our communities by providing advice to visitors on accessing the countryside responsibly.
“We know that engagement is critical to reduce the effects of littering, fires and anti-social behaviour that can be caused by irresponsible access and given the expectation of another staycation boom it is vital this investment is made now.”
Ahead of the budget proposals being put forward in front of the council, the SNP group highlighted ‘tackling food poverty, ensuring children are supported in their return to school, providing emergency grant assistance to people at serious risk of eviction, as their top priorities in their budget proposal, among other proposals.
Speaking ahead of the meeting to discuss the budget, Strathtay representative and SNP group leader, Grant Laing said: “Our SNP budget proposals demonstrate the kind of local leadership and ambition that prioritises the people of Perth and Kinross and puts families first. Every decision within our budget amendment seeks to keep as much money in their pockets as possible. We understand the hardship some are facing due to this pandemic and if there is any difference – however small – we can make then that is what our budget has sought to do.”
Provost Dennis Melloy also confirmed there will be a Civic Reception in for St Johnstone FC, when Coronavirus restrictions allow, to recognise their recent League Cup triumph.