Relationships ‘at a new low’ as councils reject Local Government Finance Settlement

Lesley Laird
Lesley Laird

A vote by Scotland’s local authorities to reject the package of measures put forward for Scottish local government takes relationships to a new low, according to Fife Council.

Last week finance secretary John Swinney held talks with council representatives as he sought to finalise the Local Government Finance Settlement.

The deputy first minister wrote to each of the council leaders with full details of the proposition, setting an initial deadline of February 2 to respond to the deal which he described as “challenging but fair”.

Mr Swinney said the funding agreement would protect the council tax freeze, invest £250 million in social care and maintain the pupil-teacher ratio in Scotland’s schools.

However the deal has been rejected by councils throughout Scotland and the proposals were branded “draconian” by local government umbrella body COSLA.

Leader David O’Neill, said: “Make no mistake this is not a matter of choice for councils and this may be perceived as victory for Mr Swinney, but it is certainly not a victory for communities or democracy.”

Following the COSLA vote, deputy leader of Fife Council, Cllr Lesley Laird, said: “The lack of meaningful dialogue on the local government settlement and the threatened package of sanctions for raising the Council Tax is simply unacceptable.”

Cllr Altanty Craik, who attended the COSLA leaders meeting, said: “It was obvious that the SNP had been whipped to accept the cuts as a good deal as every other council, including independent councils, refused to accept the settlement. This really is a sad for democracy and removes any pretence about local autonomy and parity of esteem.”

Cllr Lesley Laird added: “This is coercion and bully boy tactics of the first order. At a time when the SNP are still haggling over the Scotland Bill, a Bill that would give them more powers and more control of the Scottish economy, it is somewhat ironic that they are stomping all over local authorities and removing any flexibility or local autonomy to meet local needs and is simply undermining local democracy.

“Fife Council will now once again have to consider the options available in light of today’s discussions to consider how best to balance the budget and protect front line services to the most vulnerable in our communities.”

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