AFTER over a week of uncertainty, Stirling Council has, finally, set its budget.

At a meeting on Friday, 24 February, the council successfully set its budget including a Council Tax cut of 1% with effect from 1 April 2012 - this means the average Band D Council Tax will go down to �1,197 from �1,209.

The Council had previously failed to reach agreement on the �214.51 million budget and Provost Fergus Wood urged all parties to have discussions and move towards a further meeting at the earliest opportunity.

At Friday's Special Council Meeting, revised Revenue and Capital Budget Motions were submitted by the SNP Administration and Amendments to those budgets were put forward jointly by the Labour and Conservative parties. The joint Labour and Conservative Amendments were voted through to become the agreed Council Revenue and Capital budgets. Several key areas of spending in the budget include: � The expansion of Modern Apprenticeship Scheme - �100,000 � Environment priorities totalling �124,000 to increase the frequency of grass cutting on sports fields, cemeteries and ambassador routes, eradication of invasive weeds and funding for changes to Blue Badge Scheme � Training and support for new childminders - introduction and extension of nursery and out-of-school care provision - �150,000 � Enhancement of Advice Services to alleviate impact of Welfare Reform - �60,000 � City centre small business support - �50,000 � Tourism Marketing Improvements - �80,000 � Spring clean of open spaces and riverbanks - �60,000 � �5,000 funding for the Samaritans � Increase funding to buy library books - �45,000 Revenue balances of �4.9 million are projected for the end of 2011/12, which is 2.3% of the total. The budget proposals allow for revenue balances to maintain a sound financial position.

Stirling Council has a Council Tax collection rate of over 98% and has the highest in-year collection rate on mainland Scotland.

The Council also approved a General Services Capital Programme of �9.527 million. New projects include �300,000 for the Bannockburn-Cowie B8034 Railway Bridge realignment, �100,000 of funding towards the backlog of improvements to community facilities and �150,000 to implement park master plans and review pavilions.

The Councillors also voted to use funds from the sale of the Burghmuir site, when received, for a range of initiatives including an additional �750,000 for road improvements, �400,000 for improvements to school buildings, �400,000 to improve community facilities, a further �150,000 to implement parks master plans and review of pavilions and �200,000 for the Back Walk and Bannockburn Heritage Trails.

Projects already agreed by the Council include the rebuilding of East Plean Primary School at a cost of �2.754 million, �540,000 for replacing Refuse Collection Vehicles and the new Integrated Waste Facility at Lower Polmaise costing �970,000.