Holyrood agrees funding for Scottish council budgets

The allocation of funding agreed in the Scottish Budget was formally approved by MSPs.

Holyrood agrees funding for Scottish council budgets Getty Images

Holyrood has agreed funding for councils despite opposition criticism about cuts to local authority budgets.

The allocation of funding agreed in the Scottish Budget was formally approved by MSPs, with approximately £12bn for revenue spending and almost £700m for capital expenditure for Scotland’s councils.

Faced with criticism that the allocation amounted to a cut of £250m for local authorities, public finance minister Tom Arthur argued that the Scottish Budget was 5.6% lower in real terms because of lower coronavirus consequentials compared with the previous year’s settlement.

Scottish Conservative local government spokesman Miles Briggs responded that Scotland’s block grant from the UK Government was a record £41bn and said: “This is a decision taken by SNP and Green ministers to cut budgets and we know that councils across Scotland have joined together to condemn these cuts.

“This is a poor funding settlement being delivered by the Scottish Government today which will impact on all of our communities.

“It’s clear that the SNP and Green budget will have a negative impact on councils across Scotland.

“We are already seeing councils setting budgets with increased council tax – an average of 3% – at a time we are facing a cost-of-living crisis, increases in charging for local services and cuts to services.

“The responsibility for that lies firmly at the door of this SNP-Green government.”

Scottish Labour’s Mark Griffin said: “We disagreed with the SNP and Green budget because it will continue to squeeze local authorities dry.

“It’s not a fair funding package for our communities, it’s a timid, uninspiring budget.

“It forces councils to comply and make more cuts where they struggle to keep up with demand for local services.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “The Finance Secretary has set the same elephant trap as her predecessors: year after year, the SNP lay down a punishing cut to councils only to offer a little extra cash at the 11th hour and expect to be lauded as some kind of heroes for so doing.

“But make no mistake, deleting £370m from the budget only to restore £120m of that still leads to a £250m cut.”

Concluding the debate, Arthur said: “I want to have a mature debate around local government financing but it’s not enough simply to come to the chamber and say there should be more money for local government, but not give any indication of where that money should come from.

“So I hope that this can be the last year we have this conversation that we have every year. As we move into the budget process next year, if members believe that the local government finance settlement should be increased – which is a perfectly legitimate position to take – I hope that they will identify from which budget line that should be taken.”

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