There were chaotic scenes in the Comhairle council chamber tonight, after a member of the public threatened to punch council officials over proposed public service cuts.
The woman, who was voicing her anger at a proposal to do away with the ‘Action for Children’ support service, shouted to Council Leader Angus Campbell, and Chief Executive Malcolm Burr: “You have stated that resources should be focused on the most vulnerable in our communities, especially care for the elderly and young people. Yet these are the people you are denying things to.
“Our children are not going to have music, they are not going to have art and they are not going to have PE.
“Now you are saying that children with additional support needs are not going to get respite.
“Do you have any idea what it is like to have a child with additional support needs?”
“I am leaving now because otherwise I am going to punch you.”
It was one of several moments which prompted another member of the public to express her ‘embarrassment’ at the conduct of some of those present.
A packed chamber gathered to hear how the Comhairle was facing a £4.5 million reduction in government grant funding for 2016/17.
Taken together with the budget deficit carried over from 2015/16 (£1m), inflationary pressures (£1m), additional National Insurance pension related costs (£1.5m) and pressures in Health and Social Care (£1.3m), the Comhairle is faced with an overall budget gap of £9.8 million in 2016/17.
Items which prompted lengthy discussion included a proposal to discontinue the provision of itinerant teachers in primary schools, which would save £465,000 over two years.
Keith Morrison, of Wee Studio, said that in just two days he had gathered over 800 signatures against the proposal.
“This move would be cutting down the tree before it has a chance to grow,” he said.
“The creative industry here is flourishing. It’s the last ace card we have.
“Kids that are not academically sound find solace in art, music and PE.
“This is our generation's responsibility.”
Another contentious proposal was to place all children currently in residential care in foster care.
This would significantly reduce the service requirements of ‘Action for Children’, and one member of the public estimated this could result in over 50 redundancies.
Full budget choice information is available online here.
In the firing line - Comhairle Chief Executive Malcolm Burr, and Leader of the Comhairle, Angus Campbell.