MSP Smyth attacks government with “Labour guns and overstated outrage” over funding cuts

Shadow Health Minister Colin Smyth
Shadow Health Minister Colin Smyth

The Scottish Government is spending £116 less on council funding per person in the Scottish Borders, according to new figures provided by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe).

The figures, commissioned by Scottish Labour, show that the Government grant to Scottish Borders Council has fallen from £1,886 per person in 2013/14 to £1,770 per person in 2018/19.

South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said: “These stark figures reveal the cost of cuts in funding to councils by the SNP. In real terms that funding has fallen by £116 per person in the Scottish Borders over the past five years.

“Local people will rightly feel aggrieved that although they are paying more council tax this has purely been to cushion the massive cuts over the last two years, not to increase overall spending on local services because of the Government’s funding cuts.

“With such savage cuts from the Government its little wonder that more and more local lifeline services are having to be axed.”

“£116 per person is a huge sum of money by anyone’s standards but for a region where investment is all too often lacking for the Government, this is a real kick in the teeth to local people.”

“In this year’s Scottish budget Labour would have used the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to end austerity and invest in our lifeline services for the many not the few.”

The figures also show that the drop in funding per person in the Scottish Borders is actually lower than for Scotland overall, with Scottish councils losing an average of £137 per person.

Councillor Stuart Bell, leader of the SNP opposition at Scottish Borders Council, said: “I have great respect for Colin Smyth whom I know from working with him on the South of Scotland Alliance, but in my view he is currently pointing his Labour guns and his overstated outrage at the wrong target.  

“The SNP Scottish Government has protected local services against the 9% fall in real terms in UK discretionary funding since 2010/11.  

“That fall is a reduction in the money that the Tory government have passed to Scotland, but our Scottish local authorities have been protected from an equivalent cut as that has not been passed on.  

“English local authorities have not been so fortunate which is why some ‘have had their budgets cut by 40% [since 2010]’. Oh! That is a quote from Jeremy Corbyn, from June 2017.”

“Colin Smyth should be taking on the Tories in Westminster, not the SNP in Holyrood.”

“I will, though, write to Colin asking him for the detail behind the figures he quotes. I am not specifically doubting them – but they do seem strange.  

“It is actually very difficult to track funding changes; and the longer the period of comparison the harder this is.  

“Back in 2013/14 was the time that the Police and Fire Services were being taken out of local authority budgets so I don’t know how this change has been calculated, and since then the funding for Social Care has been combined into a separate Health and Social Care budget.  

“This change and the direct funding of £120m across Scotland going direct to head teachers to tackle the attainment gap means that the measured funds to local authorities can go down, at the same time as the funding from the Scottish Government for local services can go up.

“My own calculation is that in cash terms this year we had a 0.7% increase in the funding to Scottish Borders Council from the Scottish Government. In anybody’s money an increase, is an increase… so it is not all bad!”

At previous budget briefings, Scottish Borders Council had announced that revenue grant funding from the Scottish Government had increased by £0.829m.

However, a council spokesperson confirmed that due to additional burdens now being funded via the grant, the General Capital Grant has reduced by £1m.

Councillor Shona Haslam, leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “Thanks to a lot of work done by the council in recent years to identify savings we are able to protect front line services from SNP cuts.  

“However it becomes increasingly difficult to continue to deliver the services people expect and want in light of ever decreasing amounts of funding from the SNP Scottish Government.”

“In the Conservative/Independent led administration’s recent budget we pledged additional funds to combat teenage mental health, improve our schools and our roads.  

“We are doing everything that we can to ensure that top class services are being delivered, and call on the Scottish Government to match our commitment.”