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Scottish councils reject reduction to local government funding

Scottish council chiefs have refused to endorse the Scottish government’s reduction to the core local government settlement, despite Holyrood’s draft budget potentially giving them £240m more to work with next year.

Last Thursday Scotland’s finance secretary Derek Mackay outlined the 2017-18 local government settlement which he said, “invests in education, invests in social care and invests in local services”.

However, opposition parties and councils have criticised the government for making at least £182m of cuts to core council funding and for passing the buck onto families by raising council tax instead of income tax.

Cosla (The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) president Cllr David O’Neill said: “Cosla can never endorse a reduction to the core local government settlement as announced as part of the budget statement.

“It is our understanding that the Scottish government had significant additional cash for 2017-18 and therefore this decision will impact on services delivered by local government.

“Councils will now consider the whole package as part of their budget considerations and Cosla remains committed to working with Scottish government across the range of common interests including public service reform.”

Mackay stated that local government could expect £111m of additional council tax revenues due to reform of the upper tax bands.

Councils will also have the freedom to raise council tax by up to 3%, potentially raising an extra £70m for their coffers.

Finally, £107m will be moved from the NHS to councils to support workers and services in adult social care, providing local government with up to £240.6m in total, Mackay noted.

However, the SNP minority government must still win a final vote for the budget, with Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, threatening to oppose it unless spending for education increased further.

“The first minister said that there were acres of common ground between the parties but can I tell the finance secretary that he has got miles to travel before we can reach an agreement,” Rennie said.

Mackay noted that Holyrood will use its own resources to fund £120m going to schools to close the gap in students’ attainment next year.

While spending on social services, education and health increased in the draft budget presented to Holyrood, opposition parties also identified funding cuts to universities, the Scottish prosecution service, buses and bus fares, and the investment agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Prior to the draft budget last week, O’Neill urged ministers to preserve local government funding, saying that further cuts would be “disastrous” for communities and services.

(Image c. Danny Lawson PA Wire)

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Scottish Scientist   21/12/2016 at 14:15

A duplicitous austerity SNP budget, yes, but one framed by the duplicitous austerity Fiscal Framework Agreement of February 2016 wherein First Minister Sturgeon foolishly signed away the Scottish government powers to borrow £billions more per year from the central bank as national debt / investment. The Fiscal Framework Agreement was a UNION FRAUD not a "union dividend" whereby the UK Treasury by sleight of hand, Greg Hands, sneaked Scottish national savings out from under the noses of Scottish government ministers and advisers. Ever since, there has been a tartan-Tory SNP/UK conspiracy of silence about the bad Fiscal Framework Agreement which imposed tough cuts/ tax rise choices. This silence is very bad SNP political tactics which are allowing unionist parties to escape blame for UK responsibility for Scottish budget cuts and austerity. The better political tactics for Scottish nationalists and the SNP would be to admit their mistake and repudiate their own Fiscal Framework Agreement and press for £billions a year more in macro-economic borrowing powers as necessary to avert cuts, end austerity and invest for prosperity. If and when such demanded additional borrowing is denied by the UK Treasury then the SNP can blame the union and and unionist parties for budget cuts and austerity.

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