A row has broken out over local government funding in the Scottish Government’s proposed budget, which includes more than £5bn capital spending 'to grow and modernise infrastructure'.
The Scottish Greens have threatened to withhold support for the minority SNP administration’s budget, which councils claim will leave them almost £200m worse off.
Although spending on councils has increased to £11.1bn, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has calculated that this is outweighed by £373m of new commitments and £75m of ringfencing in capital budgets.
It amounts to a cut to local authorities’ core budget of £175m and £17m in capital funding while council tax increases will again be capped at 3% and there are no proposals for a tourist tax.
COSLA’s president, Cllr Alison Evison, said: ‘There is no scope for local government to mitigate the impact of these cuts as there has been no movement yet on local taxation – the 3% council tax cap remains and there is no indication about discretionary taxation, including tourist tax.
‘It is extremely frustrating that, having worked well on a range of issues with the Government this year, our contribution to meeting key outcomes across Scotland has not yet been acknowledged.
‘What we have today is a bad deal for communities and for jobs.
'Given these proposals today, serious financial challenges lie ahead for councils.’
In past years, the budget has relied on the votes of Green MSPs to pass though the Scottish Parliament.
Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said: ‘It's astonishing that the finance secretary’s budget statement contained no word on reform of local tax and, despite a passing reference in the budget document itself, there are no commitments to action at all.’ T
he Scottish Government's finance secretary, Derek Mackay, said: ‘Our decisions on taxation have resulted in a more progressive tax system, protecting those lower and middle income taxpayers while raising additional revenue to invest in our public services and the Scottish economy.
'Freezing the higher rate tax threshold will ensure Scotland’s health and care services get the full budget increase they deserve despite a £55m shortfall from the UK Government’s autumn Budget.’
The budget includes:
- More than £20m for zero waste, 'supporting the transition towards a more resource-efficient, circular economy, including design and implementation of a deposit return scheme'
- £80m for Active Travel
- More than £825m for affordable housing
This article first appeared on themj.co.uk.