Monday September 20, 2021

Scottish govt denies Sarwar’s claim it is ‘short-changing’ councils

February 23, 2021

EDINBURGH: Labour leadership contender Anas Sarwar has accused the SNP government of “short-changing” Scotland’s councils by almost £4 billion in the last nine years.

Sarwar insisted if local government funding had kept pace with the increases the Scottish government received to its budget, local authorities would have received £3.86 billion more since 2013-14. He added that that amounted to a reduction of £1,544 per household in the amount of cash councils have to spend on vital services – such as schools, social care and street cleaning. The Scottish government said that Sarwar’s claims were “misleading and in some instances are simply not true”. A government spokeswoman said: “Scotland’s local authorities will receive an increase in revenue funding in 2021-22 of £335.6 million or 3.1 per cent and not a 2.4 per cent cut as claimed.” However, Sarwar – who is running against fellow MSP Monica Lennon to be the next Scottish Labour leader – accused the SNP of “adding to the pain” caused by the Conservative government’s austerity and was “taking an axe to local services”.

He claimed: “By short-changing councils, this has led to cuts to schools, social care and bin collections.” Sarwar insisted: “The SNP can’t blame the UK government for these cuts; it has chosen to skim funds from local authorities and hoard funding in Edinburgh.

“These year-on-year cuts left our local councils at their weakest when they were needed most during this pandemic. They now face their toughest challenge yet.

“Instead of the SNP’s philosophy of centralising and hoarding power and funds in Edinburgh, we should give resources and power back to local communities, and invest in local infrastructure to create jobs.”

The Scottish government spokeswoman stressed ministers were “committed to protecting the funding to the NHS” – adding that once health funding was discounted from budget plans, cash for day-to-day spending in other areas had reduced by 3.1 per cent in real terms for the remainder of the Scottish fiscal resource budget.

The spokeswoman said: “Despite this local government has been treated very fairly with council’s revenue funding having increased in cash terms by £1.3 billion or 12.1 per cent between 2013-14 and 2021-22.”

She added that all local authorities “have received their fair share of this increased funding using a funding formula which is kept under constant review and is agreed with Cosla on behalf of all 32 local authorities each year”.

The spokeswoman said: “In addition to the annual local government finance settlements the Scottish Government is providing local authorities with a further £1.2 billion Covid-19 funding over this year and next.”The winner of the Scottish Labour leadership contest will be announced on Saturday, February 27.