City of Edinburgh Council (Underfunding)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 3 September 2020.

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Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions ministers have had regarding reported concerns relating to the underfunding of the City of Edinburgh Council. (S5O-04549)

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

Ministers have been in regular and on-going dialogue with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and individual local authorities since the Covid-19 crisis began. My colleagues and I appreciate the range of challenges and pressures that are facing all local authorities at this time, including the City of Edinburgh Council.

Working in partnership with COSLA, the Scottish Government will continue to press the United Kingdom Government for additional financial support and fiscal flexibilities for both the Scottish Government and local authorities to use in this crisis. We would welcome any support that this Parliament can provide in that respect.

Photo of Miles Briggs Miles Briggs Conservative

As a fellow Edinburgh MSP, the minister will be aware that the chief executive of Edinburgh Leisure has warned that the impact of Covid on its finances will be up to £8 million and that the sector is in crisis. Given the on-going underfunding of the City of Edinburgh Council via the Scottish Government, will the minister commit to a bail-out fund for arm’s-length external organisations such as Edinburgh Leisure and agree to urgent cross-party talks on the crisis that is facing leisure sectors across Scotland?

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

First, on the general position with regard to the City of Edinburgh Council, Mr Briggs will be aware that it receives £878 million to fund local services and that, taken together with the decision to increase council tax by 4.79 per cent, it will have an extra £66.1 million to support day-to-day services in 2020-21. That equates to an additional 8.8 per cent.

To date, the council has been allocated an additional £19.3 million to deal with the challenges of Covid-19, and it will receive its fair share of a further £75 million, which is currently undistributed but will be allocated following an agreement on the distribution methodology with COSLA.

We are in dialogue with COSLA on the lost income scheme and the pressures that are facing ALEOs. Once we have completed a cost collection exercise, we will look to undertake distribution of that resource and the consequentials received. In that regard, we are in regular contact with the City of Edinburgh Council through COSLA, as we are with local authorities across the country. We are working together to meet the pressures that they are facing.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I will take a supplementary question from Rona Mackay. I note that, although the question started out being about Edinburgh, it has broadened out to be about local authorities and ALEOs. Ms Mackay, I have no idea what your supplementary question is, but it does not necessarily have to be linked to Edinburgh.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

Thank you, Presiding Officer. Can the minister advise me of the total additional funding that has been provided to local authorities this year in response to Covid-19?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I will allow that question because the answers have broadened the initial question out.

Photo of Ben Macpherson Ben Macpherson Scottish National Party

We have committed £330 million of additional support for local authorities. To help with cash-flow difficulties, we front-loaded our grant payments by £455 million between May and July.

We also increased our general revenue grant by £972 million to reflect the potential loss of that amount of business rates income resulting from our support for businesses. The Scottish Government is also providing an additional £135 million to support the return to school, and up to £100 million through integration authorities to support the social care sector.