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Council racks up £169 million debt

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By Marc McLean and David Dubas-Fisher
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Council racks up £169 million debt

DUMFRIES and Galloway Council has racked up an eye-watering £169m worth of debt, shock new figures have revealed.

Money owed has put the squeeze on the local authority, and has contributed to successive council administrations struggling to balance the books each year.

However, other Scottish councils are in a far more precarious position.

Edinburgh City has the highest level of debt in Scotland at a staggering £1.565 billion, while Glasgow City is next at £1.314 billion, and Aberdeen City is £1.097 billion in the red.

Across the UK, local authorities are £122 billion in debt in total, with experts predicting an “extreme and long-lasting” effect on local services.

UK councils owe a combined £97.8 billion to lenders, according to a BBC analysis of data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

That’s equivalent to £1141 per resident, as of September 2023.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Some of the outlier examples of high local authority debt are staggering, and the impact on services for residents is liable to be extreme and long-lasting.

“There are of course many drivers of the present situation, not least the day-to-day pressures experienced by local authorities with squeezed spending power and ageing populations living through difficult economic times.”

Council collective, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), has been campaigning in recent years to the Scottish Government for larger settlements to councils in order to support services and balance the books.

While the Deputy First Minister announced that local government will receive an additional £550 million in its 2024-5 settlement from the Scottish Government, COSLA members argued that this still falls short of a £1 billion funding gap for the whole of Scotland.

Meanwhile, the BBC analysis of figures show that Dumfries and Galloway’s debt of £169m is lower than neighbouring councils, which are: Scottish Borders – £209.9m, South Lanarkshire – £967.9m, South Ayrshire – £254.3m, East Ayrshire – £396.7m, Cumberland – £254m, and Northumberland – £672.3m.

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