Local Authorities (Scottish Government Support)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 24th September 2020.

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Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the support it is providing to local authorities in their response to Covid-19. (S5O-04631)

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

To date, the Scottish Government has committed to providing £379 million in additional direct grant support for local authorities, and a further £972 million of general revenue grant to replace the potential loss of non-domestic rates income resulting from our Covid-19 rates relief measures. We are also providing £135 million, over the next two years, to support the return to school, and up to £100 million, which will be provided through integration authorities, to support tackling challenges in the social care sector.

Photo of Alexander Burnett Alexander Burnett Conservative

Local authorities are struggling, under the cuts made by the Scottish National Party Government, to fund the maintenance of vital local infrastructure—nowhere more so than in Aberdeenshire, which has a network of bridges. One such example in my constituency is Park bridge, through the closure of which two communities are now divided.

What additional support can the cabinet secretary provide to support strained budgets so that the current backlog of maintenance can be dealt with and our communities can be kept united?

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

I do not recognise Mr Burnett’s characterisation of the financial situation as being a result of the Scottish Government’s actions. In fact, it should be noted that Scotland’s local authorities have enjoyed a cash-terms revenue budget increase of 3.6 per cent over the period between 2013 and 2020, despite a decade of the United Kingdom Government’s austerity policies.

It is also appropriate to look at the situation in which English authorities find themselves. They have faced a cash-terms revenue budget increase of 14.7 per cent over the same period, which is an equivalent real-terms reduction of 22.8 per cent.

The matter of the bridge, which will be so important to Mr Burnett’s constituents, will be one for the local authority to consider, given that we have provided resource to tackle such issues. However, we recognise that the situation is challenging, so if Mr Burnett would like to write to us about it, we will engage with him in a constructive way. However, perhaps he should frame his questions in a slightly different way. We want to ensure that the current situation that people are having to endure is not made worse by decisions that are not conducive to our communities flourishing.