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“Dismal” financial settlement

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
“Dismal” financial settlement

FRUSTRATED Dumfries and Galloway councillors will protest to the Scottish Government once again after a “dismal” financial settlement which leaves the region with a funding gap of nearly £12m.

In what has become an annual scenario, elected members have accused Holyrood ministers of short-changing the council with their budget allocation for 2024/25.

They argue that a likely real terms cut of £11.8m will be felt by people in our communities and have complained that a council tax freeze makes balancing the books even more difficult.

In a report tabled at the council’s finance, procurement and transformation committee last Thursday, the picture looks bleak for the next three years.

Gillian Ross, the council’s finance and accounting manager, wrote in the report: “When considered alongside the impact of the local government funding settlement, the council’s projected funding gap over the upcoming three financial years is currently estimated at £32.5m.”

Mid Galloway and Wigtown West Councillor Richard Marsh suggested writing to the Scottish Government about the impact the financial settlement will have on this region.

The Conservatives Councillor said: “This settlement is a continued real terms erosion of local government funding. We should not underestimate the gravity of the situation we face as a council that’s replicated right across Scotland. Local government finances are in a critically poor state.

“I would like to echo the thoughts of our council leader, Councillor Gail Macgregor, who stated ‘every year at budget time COSLA urges for fair funding for local government to maintain essential services our communties rely on. No increase in our core funding damages these services.’

“This budget settlement will absolutely do just that. It will undoubtedly be felt by the most vulnerable people within our local communities who we have a duty to protect.

“In addition the real terms cash reduction, the call by the Scottish Government to freeze council tax without any notice or prior consultation simply compounds that situation.”

Annandale North Councillor Carolyne Wilson called for council leader Gail Macgregor to write to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to complain about the funding cuts and “reiterate COSLA’s lobbying position”.

The Labour Councillor said: “I think we all agree that this is a dismal settlement for our council from the Scottish Government. An £11.8 funding gap means services and jobs being left on the drink by the Scottish Government, putting councillors of all political parties in a difficult position and being unable to deliver on the manifestos we stood on at the council elections less than two years ago.”

However, SNP councillors argued that the continuing cash shortfall problems lies with Westminster, not Holyrood.

Annandale North Councillor Stephen Thompson said: “The Scottish Government itself is subject to the strictures of a UK government. I think we have to put it in the context of that because, while we don’t like what’s coming from the Scottish Government, ultimately Scotland doesn’t like what’s coming from Westminster.”

It was agreed that council leader Gail Macgregor would write to both the UK and Scottish Governments to protest about this year’s financial settlement for Dumfries and Galloway.

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