A leading East Dunbartonshire councillor has expressed anger over the budget challenges facing local authorities.
Conservative councillor Andrew Polson, who shares leadership of the council with Liberal Democrat Vaughan Moody, hit out at claims by public finance minister Kate Forbes that councils were getting a good deal from the Scottish Government.
East Dunbartonshire is due to set its budget in March. The Scottish Government is recommending a council tax increase of up to five per cent and the council’s core budget has been reduced in real terms by one per cent.
Councillor Polson said: “This is shocking news for Scottish local government and, in particular, East Dunbartonshire. I am angry that once again we are facing a real terms cut to our revenue budget, which without doubt puts at risk the delivery of essential services in the coming year.
“When you add this to the 17 per cent cash cut to our capital funding you start to see that any chance we have of growing our economy locally is being hampered significantly. We are in crisis and our local communities inevitably are going to suffer.
“This is even more shocking given the fact that the Scottish Government Budget is increasing and is proof that this scandal-hit SNP administration has local government at the very bottom of its agenda.”
He added: “In East Dunbartonshire we are working tirelessly in trying to build new schools, keep the small libraries open, keep the bins collected and invest more in our roads resurfacing programme yet the Budget reality communities now face is a cut to local jobs, a cut to local services and a cut to the work we’re doing to tackle child poverty and climate change.
“Once again I call upon the Scottish Government to have a serious rethink, and to rectify this position urgently. I also sincerely hope that the newly elected SNP MP for East Dunbartonshire and the council’s SNP opposition Group Leader Gordan Low will join with me and my colleagues and use their influence in pressing for a reverse of these cuts. If nothing is done the consequences for East Dunbartonshire in the coming years will be dire.”
Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona MacKay responded to Councillor Polson’s comments, saying: “The budget provides councils with an increase in day to day revenue spending of £494 million, fully funds all Scottish Government commitments and provides an additional £100m for social care, including a contribution of £25m to ensure all care staff are paid the living wage.
“Taken together with tax flexibility, this local government settlement gives councils an increase of revenue spending of up to 4.3 per cent in real terms to deliver local services.
“Despite the UK Government’s cuts to Scotland’s annual budget – which has fallen in real terms by £1.5 billion over the last decade – the Scottish Government has continued to treat local government fairly, and deliver better services for our communities.
“With Westminster in complete chaos and the consequences of Brexit still unclear, the SNP has delivered certainty and stability for Scotland’s economy with a budget that protects our NHS, schools and vital services here in East Dunbartonshire.”