SBC examining Swinney’s budget, as Lamont slams SNP

Scottish Borders Council says it is still working out what the impact will be from the much criticised local authority budget allocations from the Scottish Government.

By Mark Entwistle
Friday, 18th December 2015, 12:26 pm
Finance secretary John Swinney  unveiled his draft budget to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament this week.
Finance secretary John Swinney unveiled his draft budget to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament this week.

Scottish Government finance minister John Swinney’s settlement this week resulted in uproar among local authorities, as they predicted that an overall 3.5% cut in local government budgets will result in 15,000 job losses across councils and a loss of some £350m over 2016/17.

Following Mr Swinney’s announcement, SBC said it faced what it termed “financial challenges.”

Councillor John Mitchell, Depute Leader of SBC with responsibility for finance, said: “We recognise this is a very difficult time for the public finances. No reductions in funding are ever welcome and difficult budget decisions are facing us.

“However, the Council has a five-year financial plan in place underpinned by a robust Corporate Transformation programme designed to deliver service improvements and long term cost efficiencies.

“This programme and our budget planning for 2016/17 are well advanced and we have been planning for reductions in funding next year. We will continue to work with government and our community planning partners to ensure the impact of any reductions in budgets on service users are minimised wherever possible.”

David Parker, Leader of SBC, added: “We are continuing with the ongoing detailed work with Council officers which involves looking at the range of suggestions that have already being put forward by residents as part of our budget consultation, as well as reviewing various proposals from within Council departments.

“We are still inviting members of the public to put forward their suggestions around how we can do things more efficiently. We are looking at all the ideas submitted as part of the work to develop our budget proposals which will be put forward for agreement at full Council in February 2016.”

Although by today (Friday) SBC was still not in a position to put actual figures on what the reduction might be for the Borders allocation, local Conservative MSP John Lamont said it amounted to around £7million.

“Scottish Borders Council will receive £207.2m in 2015-16 falling to £200.6m the following year. This is despite the Scottish Government’s total budget being more than £400m higher than the previous year,” he said.

“The SNP Government has chosen to slash council budgets across Scotland and Scottish Borders Council will have to deal with one of the largest decreases.

“The council is already struggling to properly fund our schools, our roads and our bins service. A further cut of £7 million next year will only make matters worse. I am disappointed that the SNP does not appear to prioritise frontline services provided by councils.”