Councils unanimously ‘appalled’ by ‘barely survivable’ Scottish Budget

Council chiefs warned of the impact on essential services as they face another year of real terms cuts to their core funding.

Councils unanimously ‘appalled’ by ‘barely survivable’ Scottish Budget STV News

All of Scotland’s 32 councils, including those controlled by the SNP, have said they cannot accept the government’s Budget.

After a meeting of all of the country’s local authority leaders on Friday, the funding package announced on Thursday was described as a “bad deal”.

Council chiefs warned of the impact on essential services as they face another year of real terms cuts to their core funding.

Cosla’s resources spokesperson, councillor Gail Macgregor, said: “What we have is a budget that barely allows local government to survive.”

Cosla president, councillor Alison Evison, said that it was beyond frustrating that local government’s campaign for more funding to improve standards of life had been totally disregarded.

The reaction from Scotland’s councils, which includes 14 led by the SNP, is among the strongest ever issued by Cosla.

Leaders unanimously agreed to raise concerns at the highest level of the Scottish Government after finding out they face a real terms reduction in funding of £264m (2.5%).

North Ayrshire Council leader Joe Cullinane, who proposed the motion to oppose the Budget, said the cut comes after more than a decade of the same.

“There is no doubt that this is an appalling budget for local councils,” he told STV News.

“Councils are seeing costs rising, including from the Tories National Insurance hike, and we are having more demands placed on us from Scottish Government decisions made in Edinburgh, but we are receiving no funding to cover them.

“There is no funding in this budget to provide a fair pay deal for local government workers so again SNP ministers are asking councils to cut local services, to cut local jobs, in order to fund a pay award for our staff.

“The budget is simply not acceptable.”

As part of Kate Forbes’ budget, the council tax freeze will come to an end and local authorities will be given “full flexibility” in setting rates for 2022-23.

But there is some doubt councillors will want to raise revenue this way with local council elections in May 2022.

Scotland’s councils have suffered more than a decade of cuts and increasing pressure on vital services.

Audit Scotland and the Scottish Parliament Information Centre both agree local authorities have been getting up to £600m less from the Scottish Government in real terms.

Councils say that, faced with growing and aging populations, deteriorating buildings and expanding duties, they have been left with “no choice” but to cut core services.

Ahead of the Budget, STV News asked the 32 councils for their views on the impact of cuts. See what they had to say here.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Local authorities are key partners of government and the important role they continue to play in delivering public services and supporting communities does not go unrecognised. They will receive an overall funding package of almost £12.5bn in 2022/23, a real terms increase of 4.5 per cent.

“The 2022/23 Budget provides a number of financial flexibilities as requested by local government, including providing councils with complete flexibility on council tax to take local decisions for local populations.

“This Budget is one of choices, and difficult decisions have been made that will lift children out of poverty, invest in social care and help tackle the climate emergency.”

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