Colin Smyth MSP
Shock new figures have revealed that Dumfries and Galloway Council faces a £11.7m funding shortfall as a result of the recent Green SNP Scottish Government Budget.
The massive funding gap has been described as “the worst budget settlements in living memory” by Council Leader Elaine Murray and local Labour politicians have warned that unless there is a rethink by the Scottish Government, the multi-million pound shortfall will force the council into more cuts and council tax rises.
The Local Government Finance Settlement was published on Monday 20th December, a full eleven days following the publication of the Scottish Budget in Parliament on 9 December.
Despite claims by the SNP and Green Scottish Government that they are “increasing funding”, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) revealed that the budget was a £100m cut to councils even BEFORE any other pressures such as National Insurance costs, pay or inflation are taken into account.
With pressures added, figures released to councillors by Dumfries and Galloway Council officials have revealed that the council faces a massive £11.7m shortfall for the year ahead. Without cuts, it would require a 15.1% rise in council tax to make up the budget gap.
The real terms cut to the Council’s funding now means councillors of all political parties will be asked to consider cuts and Council Tax rises to balance the books when the budget is set by the council in February.
Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Councillor Elaine 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. But this has turned out to be a real nightmare before Christmas and the worst budget settlement in living memory.
“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.
“At a time when the Council is trying to support our communities in tackling Covid, the SNP-Green Government want to undermine that fight by stripping away our resources.
“Local Councillors of all political persuasions now face the prospect of making cuts to vital local services and increasing Council Tax to produce a balanced budget as required in law and that will mean some incredibly painful decisions.”
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has pledged to fight the budget in Parliament and demand extra resources for councils before MSPs vote on the final budget in the New Year. Colin Smyth 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.
“It’s disappointing that after a decade of austerity towards council budgets, the Green SNP coalition want to hammer services across Dumfries and Galloway yet again.
“I will be fighting for a rethink from the Scottish Government before they agree their final budget in the New Year. If it doesn’t happen then I shudder to think what this will mean for local schools and care services.”