Budget (Local Authorities)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd February 2022.

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Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on whether its draft budget will enable local authorities to deliver a consistent level of core services. (S6O-00716)

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

While reductions in United Kingdom Government funding have reduced the overall Scottish budget for 2022-23 by 5.2 per cent in real terms, the Scottish Government has increased local government funding for day-to-day services such as schools and social care by £975.7 million in 2022-23, which is a real-terms increase of 6 per cent. That funding, including the extra £120 million that was added at stage 2 of the Budget (Scotland) Bill, will enable local authorities to deliver their core services in order to support communities across the country.

Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Conservative

At a time when public services, including those that are provided by councils, have been stretched to breaking point, the Scottish National Party-Green Government’s cuts to council budgets are nothing short of an insult. Trumpeting an additional £120 million after cutting £371 million requires some brass neck from the minister—it is still a cut. What will the minister tell constituents across my region, and across Scotland, who now risk seeing that cut reflected in their vital local services being scaled back and their council tax bills going up?

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

I make it clear that I recognise the outstanding and vital work that local authorities do across Scotland. If anyone has a brass neck, it is the member, because it is his party in government at Westminster that has cut the Scottish budget by 5.2 per cent and has refused to engage constructively in the budget process over the past two months. The reality is that we have a reduced budget, and we have given local government a fair settlement with a real-terms increase. I hope that, in future budgets, the Conservatives might want to engage in a more mature and considered fashion whereby, instead of simply calling for funding increases, they state clearly where that funding should come from.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

Last week, the leader of Orkney Islands Council announced that he was withdrawing from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, and denounced the settlement from the Scottish Government as the worst that any local authority had received. Does the minister believe that such treatment of Orkney Islands Council reflects the actions of a Government that is committed to island proofing and supporting our island communities?

Photo of Tom Arthur Tom Arthur Scottish National Party

As the member will appreciate, the distribution of funding through a needs-based formula is a process that is undertaken in conjunction with COSLA. Our deliberations in Parliament concern the overall local government funding settlement, in which—as I said—there has been a real-terms increase. Again, I make the point that, if members wish to see in future budgets more money for one budget line, they will have to identify a corresponding budget line in which there should be a reduction.