Politics

Scottish Budget: Cosla demands urgent sit-down with Sturgeon after £371m cut revealed

COUNCIL leaders have demanded an urgent meeting with Nicola Sturgeon after claiming authorities are bracing for a real-terms cut to their core funding of £371 million.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes’ draft Budget indicated a minimal increase in local authority finance in cash terms but has allowed authorities no limit on raising council tax.

Cosla, the umbrella organisation for Scottish councils, had warned authorities are facing a £100 million cut to revenue day-to-day funding compared to this financial year.

Now, the organisation has called for a sit-down with the First Minister to appeal for a better funding deal in next year’s Budget after the Scottish Government financial settlement – that has now been circulated to councils – shows a real-terms cut in core funding of £371 million.

Gail Macgregor, Cosla’s resources spokesperson said: “All 32 of Scotland’s council leaders were clear last night that they owe it to their communities to take the case for a better financial settlement directly to the First Minister as a matter of urgency.

“We have already written to the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy in relation to the settlement, but last night there was a real strength of feeling that we need to press for a meeting at the highest possible level of government in a bid to make government understand what this Budget will really mean in our communities, and the detrimental impact it will have on core services.”

Cosla president, Alison Evison, added: “Many in the meeting described this settlement for local government as the worst they had seen.

“Council leaders were clear last night that we could not sit back and simply accept this and there was a real strength of feeling that enough is enough.

“Not only do leaders consider that we have been given a real-terms cut of £371 million, the local government settlement makes no provision for pay, inflation or increased demand for services nor for the increased burden of National Insurance contributions.

READ MORE: Scottish Budget: Kate Forbes refuses to recognise £100m funding gap fears from councils

“Leaders instructed Cosla to seek an urgent meeting with the First Minister and the Cosla leadership team including political group leaders and that is what we will be pushing for as a matter of urgency.”

The Finance Secretary has insisted there is “real terms growth” in the settlement for local government and has protected the core budget “in cash terms”.

On Tuesday, Ms Forbes refused to acknowledge the £100 million revenue funding cut that councils have raised concerns over.

She said: “In terms of the core budget which is protected in cash terms, I don’t recognise the £100 million figure that local government is using.

“As far as I’m concerned, if you compare last year’s core budget to this year’s core budget, you will see protection in cash terms.”

Ms Forbes added: “Of course, the argument could then be made that it doesn’t take into account the impact on inflation.

“I can’t inflation-proof any part of the Scottish Government’s Budget, such is the nature of inflation right now.”

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