The Draft Scottish Budget presented on Thursday 14th of December will require the support of other political parties in the Scottish Parliament if it is to be passed.
Finance Minister Derek Mackay has already intimated to all the MSPs representing the island communities in the north that his door is open if they wish to negotiate over fair ferry funding for their internal fleets, which was left out of the Draft Budget.
Orkney councillor Steve Sankey of the Scottish Green Party said:
“We’ve been anxious to secure additional resources for local government and Orkney in particular as part of the budget process, and last week’s debate was an important opening.
“As a minority government, Derek Mackay has to win support from other parties to get his budget proposals through. There’s still work to be done, though, as new independent analysis shows.”
Quoting the SPICe analysis of the Draft Budget Councillor Sankey described the work to be done to get the support of Scottish Green MSPs as ‘serious’.
The SPICe analysis to local government funding is a mixed picture as there are other sources of support to local government for example the £250m in 2016-17 or 2017-18 support for health and social care across Scotland.
“Local authorities must agree to a number of commitments to access the full funding package, including maintaining teacher numbers, securing places for all probationers under the teacher induction scheme and expansion of childcare.”
“pay is delegated to local authorities and so the Government’s pay policy does not apply to council employees.”
It further notes that :
“the funding available to local authorities for core services is due to fall by £49.1m in cash terms, and “total Revenue” funding is increasing by £3.2m. Therefore, councils may face challenges in matching this pay policy commitment.”
Councillor Sankey said:
“We know that local services in Orkney will be under intense financial pressure in the immediate years ahead and any additional resources will help towards the £12 million savings that are required.
“Extra resources will make the seemingly impossible task of balancing the OIC budget a degree less difficult.
“We in Orkney also have the issue of the additional £5.5 million required for the fair ferry funding which needs to be resolved at the earliest opportunity. It’s impossible to set budgets with this particular unresolved and unfair issue hanging over us.”
The proposed income tax policy changes from 3 bands to 5 are forecast to generate an additional £164m in 2018-19 relative to existing Scottish Government income tax rates and bands with the majority of Scottish taxpayers paying less tax than the rest of the UK.
SPICe acknowleges that ” a number of different interpretations can be put on the allocation to local government”.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame