PRESSURE should be piled on the Scottish Government for councils to receive a better financial settlement, councillors argued on Tuesday.
Dumfries and Galloway Council faces a shortfall of £13m this year to provide services in the region – and nearly £40m over the next three years.
In order to plug that funding gap, it is feared that service cuts and hikes to council tax could be implemented for the year ahead when residents are already struggling with the cost of living crisis.
The matter was raised at the council’s finance, procurement and transformation committee where elected members backed the fight for more money by council body, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).
Annandale North Councillor Carolyne Wilson, chairwoman of the committee, said: “The finance settlement has been described by COSLA as completely unacceptable and is a real terms cut to the council’s core funding.
“I’m deeply concerned, as I’m sure all members are, that this settlement doesn’t take into account that many of our residents are struggling with the impact of rocketing prices of food, fuel, and other bills. They are facing unprecedented levels of poverty.
“This budget settlement will have a detrimental impact on our vital services and on our ability to focus the necessary resources and support for our residents, who are already impacted by this cost of living crisis.
“We should continue to support the COSLA lobbying position that is held by all 32 local authorities.”
Lochar Councillor Linda Dorward, leader of the Labour group, said: “I totally appreciate the challenges going forward and one of the things you said about supporting the COSLA lobbying position.
“The COSLA budget SOS campaign, in December 2022, highlighted the devastating impact on council services and communities for 2023/24 due to an estimated funding gap for the whole of Scotland of £1 billion.”
She added that she was “concerned” that the Scottish Government has yet to announced a public pay policy for 2023/24 at this late stage.
Stranraer and the Rhins Independent Councillor Willie Scobie said: “Is there any increased activity by the 32 local authorities in terms of a settlement, and maybe more lobbying activity on Holyrood from the council leaders?
“Is there an appetite in terms of lobbying the Scottish Government because we are seriously affected in a poor settlement.”
Despite the backlash from councils across Scotland about being shortchanged, Scottish Government ministers insist that increased amounts of money are being allocated overall.
In a briefing paper issued last week, the Scottish Government stated that, over a ten year period (comparing 2023-24 to 2013-14), local government’s provisional revenue settlement has increased by 4.3 percent in real terms.