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Council’s Christmas nightmare

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By Fiona Reid
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Council’s Christmas nightmare

ANGRY council leaders have revealed a huge cut in their funding for next year, leaving them facing an £11.7 million shortfall and the possibility of major Council Tax rises.

And they say the disclosure, which only came on Monday, is causing a ‘nightmare before Christmas’.

Leader Elaine Murray described it as the “the worst budget settlement in living memory” amid concerns it could force the local authority into more cuts and big council tax rises.

The region is set to get £329 million for 2022-23 from the Scottish Government, £14 million more than last year.

However, Dr Murray said despite the 4.6 per cent increase, it’s actually a real terms cut in

funding because they have had extra costs and pressures placed on them in the past year, including staff pay inflation, which the increase does not reflect.

In fact, officials at Dumfries have worked out they need at least £11.7 million more or Council Tax will need to go up by a record breaking 15.1 per cent to avoid cuts to services.

Cllr Murray said: “The SNP-Green Scottish Government waited nearly two weeks to tell councils their funding for next year because they wanted to bury bad news just before Christmas.

“The Scottish Government tried to spin this budget as an increase in funding by failing to mention the extra costs and commitments they had piled on councils. The undeniable brutal fact is we face a £11.7m shortfall just to stand still.

“This comes on top of a decade of cuts from the government, and you simply have to ask how much more abuse local services can take from government before they grind to a halt. Our biggest costs are areas such as education and caring for our most vulnerable, so it is appalling such lifeline services are under attack.”

She warned there will be “incredibly painful” decisions to be made at the budget setting meeting in February.

Meanwhile, South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has pledged to fight the budget in Parliament and demand extra resources for councils.

He said: “This eye watering cut to the council’s budget will mean fewer local services but more council tax rises for hardworking local families.

“That will be tough for local people to take at a time they already face a cost of living crisis with spiralling energy and food bills.”

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