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Labour tells SNP to invest in councils in bid to avoid cuts

SCOTTISH Labour is calling today for the SNP government to invest in councils before drastic cuts are made to public services.

MSPs and councillors have said underfunding and the delay to passing on vital Barnett consequentials to councils have left them unprepared for the financial ramifications of coronavirus. 

These funds are passed on to the Scottish government by Westminster, allocated to Wales, Scotland and the north of Ireland respectively using the Barnett Formula, and in this case total £155 million.

Since 2013, councils across Scotland have also had £898.8m cut from non-ringfenced revenue budgets in real terms. 

Labour has now warned that this will mean local authorities are facing serious financial troubles ahead, with many having to dip into reserves and contemplate cuts to vital services.

MSP Sarah Boyack said: “Scotland’s councils have been forgotten and underfunded for far too long.

“During this pandemic, councils have pulled out all the stops to continue to deliver key services for our communities.

“Hampered by chronic underfunding and now facing huge gaps in their finances, councils require an unprecedented level of support.”

Those working at council level have said more needs to be done to ensure public services do not suffer on a local level. 

The Scottish government said the first instalment to councils of the £155m has now been paid, and that it continues to work closely with councils. 

A spokesman added: “The payments of the local government consequentials worth £155m are being made to councils in June alongside the weekly general revenue grant payments. The first instalment was received on Wednesday 3 June.  

“In addition, following agreement with Cosla [Convention of Scottish Local Authorities], we are also front loading the normal weekly grant payments by £300m to ease local authorities’ cash flow problems.”

Cosla Labour Group leader and co-leader of Fife Council, David Ross, said: “Although we will finally be getting the much-needed consequentials that we are entitled to from the Scottish government, getting our schools safely reopened in August, continuing to protect and support our elderly population and those still shielding and supporting communities with food for children and low-income families is now an immediate challenge.

“I urge the Scottish government to do all within its power to support councils to ensure that communities do not have to face cuts to services.”

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