New fears for coun­cil ser­vices and jobs

West Lothian Courier - - Front Page -

West Loth­ian Coun­cil have warned of fur­ther cuts and job losses fol­low­ing the bud­get an­nounce­ment from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment on Mon­day.

The lo­cal au­thor­ity have stated that un­less ad­di­tional re­sources can be found, then Mon­day’s draft bud­get for lo­cal coun­cils will mean con­tin­ued cuts to ser­vices with the coun­cil al­ready ex­pect­ing to re­duce spend­ing by £65.3mil­lion over the next five years.

And COSLA have de­scribed the cur­rent bud­get as “run­ning to­wards a cliff edge”.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed bud­get will pro­vide West Loth­ian Coun­cil with £342.445mil­lion to spend in 2019/20 with the pos­si­bil­ity of rais­ing a fur­ther £2.33mil­lion through coun­cil tax in­creases.

But West Loth­ian Coun­cil have high­lighted the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment’s own, in­de­pen­dent SPICe re­port which states that the core set­tle­ment avail­able to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, specif­i­cally the non­ring-fenced fund­ing avail­able for coun­cils to de­liver ser­vices, falls by £157.2mil­lion ( 1.7 per cent) in cash terms or £319.1mil­lion (3.4 per cent) in real terms

be­tween 2018-19 and 2019-20. the re­port states:“Whilst the scot­tish gov­ern­ment presents an in­crease to the lo­cal gov­ern­ment set­tle­ment, there are vary­ing ways to in­ter­pret the fig­ures.”

a West Loth­ian Coun­cil spokesper­son said:“if the scot­tish gov­ern­ment does not in­crease the pro­posed set­tle­ment for coun­cils, it will in­evitably lead to larger cuts in much needed lo­cal ser­vices and a re­duc­tion in jobs within coun­cils. it is es­sen­tial that the scot­tish gov­ern­ment lis­tens to coun­cils, mem­bers of the pub­lic and CosLa and im­proves this draft set­tle­ment for lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

“it is dis­ap­point­ing that the fund­ing has only been pro­vided for a sin­gle year as this does not help the coun­cil with long-term plans. We are try­ing our best to plan for the fu­ture but the scot­tish gov­ern­ment’s short-term ap­proach and cuts do not help.”

Lawrence Fitzpa­trick, West Loth­ian Coun­cil leader, de­scribed the scot­tish gov­ern­ment’s an­nounce­ment as “ap­palling”.

He said:“the scot­tish par­lia­ment’s own in­de­pen­dent spiCe re­port is clear. this is a sub­stan­tial real terms cut for coun­cils in scot­land and the scot­tish gov­ern­ment’s draft bud­get is ap­palling news for our staff and our com­mu­ni­ties.

“the scot­tish gov­ern­ment must im­prove this set­tle­ment or face the prospect of vi­tal lo­cal ser­vices di­min­ish­ing fur­ther. i can as­sure lo­cal res­i­dents that the coun­cil will con­tinue to de­mand a bet­ter set­tle­ment for West Loth­ian from the scot­tish gov­ern­ment. We hope that the scot­tish gov­ern­ment will lis­ten.”

CosLa’s re­sources spokesper­son, Coun­cil­lor gail Mac­gre­gor, said:“this is not good news for scot­tish Lo­cal gov­ern­ment and with­out a re­think from scot­tish gov­ern­ment or a par­lia­men­tary in­ter­ven­tion it puts at risk the de­liv­ery of es­sen­tial ser­vices in the com­ing year. With­out mean­ing­ful move­ment on the ba­sic set­tle­ment and proper dis­cus­sions around en­abling Lo­cal gov­ern­ment to raise more lo­cally i fear we are run­ning to­wards a cliff edge.”

How­ever, Fi­nance sec­re­tary derek Mackay de­fended his bud­get say­ing it pro­vided lo­cal au­thor­i­ties with an in­crease for day-to-day spend­ing on es­sen­tial pub­lic ser­vices in 2019-20, along­side an in­crease on their cap­i­tal spend­ing bud­get.

Mr Mackay said:“the scot­tish gov­ern­ment has con­tin­ued to en­sure that our part­ners in lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­ceive a fair fund­ing set­tle­ment de­spite fur­ther cuts to the scot­tish Bud­get from the UK gov­ern­ment.

“after re­mov­ing the health up­lift the scot­tish gov­ern­ment fis­cal re­source block grant fund­ing goes down by £340 mil­lion or 1.3 per cent in real terms for 2019-20. de­spite that re­duc­tion, we have still pro­vided a two per cent real terms up­lift in the to­tal Lo­cal gov­ern­ment set­tle­ment for 2019-20.

“if lo­cal au­thor­i­ties choose to use their pow­ers to in­crease Coun­cil tax by up to three per cent they can gen­er­ate up to an ad­di­tional £80 mil­lion to sup­port the de­liv­ery of es­sen­tial lo­cal ser­vices.”

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