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Budget settlement criticised

By Marc Mclean, Local Democracy Reporter
Budget settlement criticised

COUNCILLORS have laid into the Scottish Government for short-changing the area in this year’s budget.

North West Dumfries Councillor Ronnie Nicholson described it as “one of the worst settlements in a long, long time”.

Meanwhile, Dee and Glenkens Councillor Jane Maitland said: “We’re being stuffed!”

The local authority received £3.7m less than expected in its settlement from Holyrood – and now faces a funding gap of £11.7m.

A letter of complaint signed by every council leader in Scotland was sent to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon by COSLA (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities).

This prompted negotiations online last week where the Scottish Government agreed to stump up a further £120m to be split among the country’s 32 local authorities.

COSLA resources spokesperson, and Annandale North Councillor, Gail Macgregor, said: “This year, our council leaders have lobbied with a strong united voice on the budget, and this cross-party unity has resulted in a further £120 million for 2022/23.

“The further £120 million is good for local government – however it was flagged at a meeting with the First Minister that councils continue to face a £251m real terms cut which will increase again in 2023/24 by a further £120m if this one-off funding for 2022/23 is not baselined within the local government settlement.

“This must be addressed as part of the forthcoming spending review.”

Dumfries and Galloway Council leader Elaine Murray said: “Any additional funding is welcome of course but the additional funding is non-recurrent – for next year only – and doesn’t address the council’s problems with sustaining services over time.

“Also, we are likely to get around £3.4m if it’s distributed on a population share, which will go nowhere near addressing our spending gap of £11.7m.

“Specifically, there is no additional contribution to meet the National Insurance increases, pay rises or inflationary pressures, all of which are recurrent funding requirements and although a one-off payment will help with this year’s pressures they will still be there in future years.”

Before the additional money was announced, Dumfries and Galloway councillors discussed the initial budget announcement at the finance, procurement and transformation committee last Thursday.

North West Dumfries Councillor Ronnie Nicholson said: “It’s the worst settlement I’ve seen for a long, long time.

“It doesn’t matter which way they spin it. They say there’s more money, but there’s more ring-fenced money which affects the council in a huge way.”

Dee and Glenkens Councillor Jane Maitland added: “We’ve been at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic, and I think we’re being stymied.”

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