Additional Funding for Councils But Is It Enough ?

Orkney Islands Council is to receive £82.7 million in 2021/22 if the Draft Scottish Budget is passed.

Scotland’s Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced this week that Orkney Islands Council will get an additional £4.5 million on last year’s spending – an increase of 5.7% from the Scottish Government.

The plans will provide the council with an increase in day-to-day revenue spending.

£90 million has also been set aside to scrap rises in Council Tax and compensate local authorities who had planned to increase charges by up to 3% – allowing hard-pressed householders to keep more of their money to spend on other essentials.

Across Scotland, councils are set to receive £11.6 billion with £259 million added in one-off funding to support ongoing COVID-19 pressures on local services.

Maree Todd SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands said:

“In these uncertain and challenging times, the SNP Government has offered stability with a budget that protects vital local services and supports our economy.

“Local council workers have been working around the clock during this pandemic to keep Orkney moving and ensure essential services continue to operate.

“So it’s great news that Orkney Islands Council is set to receive a funding boost of £4.5 million for the coming financial year.

“In these tough times, I know that local residents will also be delighted that the SNP Government has taken the significant step of supporting local authorities to introduce a freeze on Council Tax bills.

“I’ll be backing these draft budget proposals to secure this cash for Orkney Islands Council.”

COSLA, the local authority umbrella group, has voted in favour of a Labour amendment on the local government funding proposed in the draft Scottish budget.

Expressing disappointment at the level of funding which COSLA and Labour state is insufficient to maintain local services it goes on to:

“Note that the proposed grant settlement for the essential local services provided by councils falls well short of the proportionate increase in Scottish Government’s budget.  

“Therefore, mandate COSLA to engage with Scottish Government and all parties represented in the Scottish Parliament to continue to put the case for the core funding necessary to maintain local services such as schools, social care for our elderly, environmental services, roads and transport and community facilities.  

“In addition to the asks contained in COSLA’s budget paper ‘Respect our communities – Protect our funding’, Leaders highlight the following demands in relation to the proposed local government settlement:  

  1. That funding to support a freeze in council tax for the coming year should be baselined to prevent councils having to double the council tax increase or cut services in future years;    
  2. That a fair pay increase for council staff which not only meets increased costs of living but also starts to restore the real cuts in wages in past years, is fully funded by Scottish Government through the settlement; 
  3. That the full loss of income incurred by local government including ALEOs, due to the Covid pandemic should be reimbursed by Scottish Government; 
  4. That the cuts in capital funding over recent years, should be reversed to allow councils to invest in facilities, housing and infrastructure to support our communities and local economies particularly in the context of recovering from the Covid 19 crisis.

Sarah Boyack, MSP,   Labour’s local government spokesperson said: 

“The SNP has once again failed to support Scotland’s councils and the communities that they serve.

“Today COSLA is demanding action to protect council finances, those that work for our local councils and council services.”

Finance Secretary in the Scottish Government, Kate Forbes said:

“This budget is being delivered in exceptional circumstances as we continue to battle a pandemic that has shaken our society and economy to the core.

“The local government settlement will help to fund those vital public services that are much valued and needed. 

“It includes additional funding of £59 million to complete the expansion of early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours a year, £72.6 million for investment in health and social care and £7.7 million to support the inter-island ferries in Shetland, Orkney and Argyll and Bute.

“Just as we have chosen not to increase tax rates, ensuring people pay no more than last year, I have taken the significant step of offering funding equivalent to a council tax increase of around 3% to councils who choose to freeze council tax. I look to local government to join with me in providing the much needed financial reassurance to those who are struggling.

“We need to focus on how we rebuild and renew our country, and the funding I am providing to local authorities reflects the key role that they will continue to play in that journey.”

Scottish Draft Budget: The Main Points

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