South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned the Scottish Government that it must provide more money for our cash strapped councils or face potentially devastating cuts to essential local services.
Speaking virtually in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, the local MSP highlighted a Dumfries and Galloway Council report which states that the local shortfall was £2.5m and rising.
So far, the council had spent £10m dealing with the pandemic but had received just £7.5m from the Scottish Government to meet the costs. Colin Smyth asked Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart what assessment the Scottish Government has made on the impact of Covid-19 response has had on other local council services, expressing concern that unless additional funding is received from the Government, cuts in services would be needed to balance the books.
Speaking via video link, Colin Smyth said: “To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the impact of the cost of the Covid-19 response and recovery measures for local government on the delivery of other council services.
“We know that councils face a shortfall between what they have had to spend on their efforts to support communities in the fight against Covid-19 and the extra resources that they have received from Government.
“A report by Dumfries and Galloway Council last month showed that even excluding the cost of the return to schools, the local shortfall was £2.5 million and rising.
“Does the minister accept that unless additional resources are allocated to councils, there will be cuts to existing services over and above the cuts that we already know will be required to balance the books?”
Speaking after the question session, Colin Smyth added: “It is time for the Scottish Government to step up to the mark and provide our local councils with the cash they need to close the gaps in their funding.
“Throughout this pandemic, local authorities have been working tirelessly to ensure that essential services are carried out in a safe way, while also dealing with the additional demands that Covid-19 has produced.
“Unless the Scottish Government provides councils with extra support, we will inevitably see devastating cuts to essential services over and above the massive cuts that we know will already be needed due to a lack of Government funding. In a country trying to adjust to a new ‘normal’ following lockdown, this would be devastating for our local community and I will continue to push the government to ensure this doesn’t happen.”