Councils across Scotland are to be given an additional £120m in funding next year, it has been announced.
The increase is aimed at allowing local authorities to avoid having to impose large increases in council tax bills.
Making the announcement at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, finance secretary Kate Forbes explained that councils will have “complete flexibility” in how they choose to allocate the funding in 2023.
However, the Scottish Conservatives have argued that the £120m ‘doesn’t come close’ to what is required for councils to be able to maintain basic services.
Forbes said she does not believe there is a requirement for any “inflation-busting increases” next year.
“Councils will have complete flexibility to allocate that funding as they wish next year and I intend to bring forward an amendment at stage two to deliver this,” she told MSPs.
“Councils asked for an additional £100m to deal with particular pressures. We have heard them and listened and we are going to go further.
“That will allow them to deal with the most pressing issues they face and at a time when people are understandably worried about the cost of living.
“I would point out that this increase in funding would be equivalent to a 4% increase in council tax next year.
“So whilst councils have full flexibility in setting local council tax rates, I don’t believe there is a requirement for any inflation-busting increases next year.”
The finance secretary said that this year’s Budget was one of “hard choices”, but added: “I believe we have made the right choices.”
The Scottish Conservatives’ finance and economy spokesperson Liz Smith warned that local authorities across the country are still facing an “enormous” real-terms cut to their funding.
“After repeated calls from the Scottish Conservatives, the SNP have managed to find an extra £120m in their Budget for local government – but this doesn’t even come close to what councils need just to maintain basic services,” she said.
“Local authorities are still facing an enormous £250m real-terms cut in April, despite a record block grant from the UK Government last year.
“It means Scotland’s 32 councils will now have to choose between delivering essential public services on the cheap or punishing local residents with drastic Council Tax hikes.”
Smith added: “The SNP has neglected local councils for years, and they can no longer cope with these devastating cuts.
“The Scottish Conservatives now plan to bring forward a bill to enshrine fair local government funding in law, and end the SNP’s chronic underfunding.”