SBC leader criticises Scottish Government settlement

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The umbrella body representing Scotland’s councils has angrily denounced this year’s local government settlement from the SNP Government at Holyrood.

And at the risk of alienating the nine SNP councillors on his ruling administration at Newtown, Scottish Borders Council’s Independent leader David Parker joined the chorus of disapproval.

Councillor Parker was one of 21 council leaders who supported a CoSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) motion condemning the settlement which accounts for around 85% of council revenue spending, with the balance raised locally from Council Tax.

Only seven leaders of councils, all controlled by the SNP, voted against the motion which ominously claims the settlement, amounting to a £350m cut across Scotland, is “undeliverable without an unacceptable level of cuts to services and staffing”.

Although considered largely symbolic, the motion continues: “We assert that local decision making leads to better outcomes for our citizens and communities, that the focus of central and local government should not be on inputs but securing better outcomes, and that the Scottish Government should be endeavouring to empower local democracy – not subvert it.”

CoSLA claims forcing councils to freeze Council Tax for a ninth successive year, coercing them to maintain arbitrary numbers of teachers irrespective of local circumstances and threatening them with sanctions, on top of their budget cuts, if they act in a way inconsistent with Scottish Government demands is “wholly misguided”.

“In pursuing such a course and focusing on inputs, the Scottish Government threatens grievous injury to better outcomes for citizens and communities,” states the motion.

“Further, the strictures and sanctions which the Scottish Government seeks to impose on councils are legally questionable and grossly infringe local democratic decision making.”

The motion concludes by censoring the Government for making direct approaches to council chief executives, rather that elected politicians, regarding the terms of the funding settlement.

The £211m settlement for the Borders in 2016/17 represents a cash cut of around £7m and Mr Parker’s administration has already indicated it will freeze Council Tax yet again to avoid Scottish Government penalties.

Just how the “unacceptable level of cuts to services and staffing” will play out in the Borders was due to be revealed this week with Mr Parker set to brief the media and opposition Conservative Group on the details of the 2016/17 budget which will be presented for approval next Thursday.