An additional £70m to local authorities comes at a price and is only a fraction of the money cut from local government in the Scottish budget.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, John Pentland said:
“This money has been trumpeted as a good news story, but it has just been used as a carrot and stick to ensure that local authorities apply the council tax freeze. They had little choice other than to do what they were told. I and many others—including, I suspect, those SNP members who are still sitting councillors—believe that the local government settlement is grossly unfair and unjust, putting most of the burden of Scottish Government cuts on local authorities.
“Unlike what my party pledged to provide, this is definitely not a fully funded council tax freeze—rather, it is an underfunded council service squeeze. I recognise that the Scottish Government has less money to share out, thanks to the Con-Demolition of our finances, but the sharing of what is available is anything but fair.
“More than 80 per cent of the cuts will still be shouldered by local government. Over the next three years, local government’s share of the Scottish budget will drop from 34.5 per cent to 33.3 per cent. More than £1.5 billion is being taken away from councils.
“While the Scottish Government’s real-terms funding has dropped by 2.2 per cent, local government is losing 5.5 per cent of its real-terms funding. The rest of the Scottish budget is down by just 0.5 per cent. The Scottish Government expects local government—which we all depend on to deliver high-quality services—to shoulder 10 times the level of cuts that will apply elsewhere.
“What could local authorities have done with the money that they would have had, had the cuts been shared more equally? They could have increased support to the voluntary sector. They could have created more employment and job security. More houses could have been built and services could have been protected.
“The Scottish Government has failed local authorities and their employees. It has failed those who are dependent on the quality services that are delivered by local authorities. Most disappointingly, it has failed to recognise that it did not have to be this way. To borrow a line from the Scottish Trades Union Congress, there is a better way.”