Feb 24 2012 by Tina Kemp, Lennox Herald (main ed)
ALMOST £8m is to be spent on a new swimming pool and leisure facility for Helensburgh.
Funding for the long-awaited amenity was approved last Thursday as part of Argyll and Bute Council’s budget.
A further £2.3m is to be invested in flood defences on the pierhead site, while £2.6m will go towards new offices and community facilities in the town.
There was also good news for education with £30m of capital to be poured into schools and learning over the next three years.
And Argyll and Bute’s roads network – recently voted the worst in the country – is also to receive £21m between now and 2015, the most significant investment for many years.
The council also agreed to freeze council tax for the fifth consecutive year and threw out plans to raise charges for school meals.
Council leader Councillor Dick Walsh said that despite facing “the worst set of economic conditions for a generation”, the authority had approved a budget for growth.
“This budget puts significant additional capital into Argyll and Bute – creating jobs, improving our infrastructure and improving lives across the region,” he added.
The council has adopted a strategic, three-year approach to setting its budget. It staged a comprehensive public consultation exercise to engage with the widest possible cross section of the community before drawing up draft proposals.
One of the key areas of concern for Helensburgh residents was the need to replace the ageing swimming pool, which has a lifespan of only another few years. Flooding has also been high on the agenda, particularly in the wake of recent storms.
The storms, which left much of the area counting the cost, have resulted in the formation of a new £700,000 resilience fund to cope with civil contingencies such as the aftermath of severe weather.
Councillors also approved an additional £750,000 towards changes in early years and health and social care and £200,000 for the establishment of a youth employment/opportunities to fund training, employment and further education for the over 16s.
And Helensburgh can look forward to a bright Christmas with a share of a festive decoration pot of £100,000 a year for the next three years
The council’s office rationalisation programme in Helensburgh will see the former Clyde Street School site transformed into new offices and community facilities. Other offices across the town will then be closed and sold off.
Councillor Walsh stressed the structured approach over the last few years towards service reviews and financial management had protected frontline services at the same time as creating resources to allow the authority to invest for the long term benefit of residents.
“This is a prudent budget, at the same time as being a budget for growth and recovery,” he added.
“It is not only affordable across the three years but is also sustainable going further forward into the future.
“We look forward to continuing to work with our communities and our partners in the years ahead in an effort to make this an even better place in which to live, work and visit.”