City’s budget plans face delays after government cuts to funding

Finance Secretary John Swinney. Picture: TSPL
Finance Secretary John Swinney. Picture: TSPL
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CITY council budget plans face being delayed after the Scottish Government announced swingeing cuts to local authority finances.

Finance minister John Swinney’s decision to slash council revenues by at least 3.5 per cent leaves the already cash-strapped council needing to make an extra £15 million worth of cuts on top of the current £60m target.

And city leaders have now said that plans to finalise the 2016-17 budget will have to be postponed – sparking fears that staff morale is set to plunge amid the uncertainty.

Sources have already complained that the planned reduction will leave the Capital facing “the worst budget for local government since devolution”.

Edinburgh’s ruling SNP-Labour coalition has just completed a consultation on proposed cuts – including around 2000 job losses, increased parking charges and reduced spending on emergency road repairs.

It’s now feared the cuts could end up being deeper than previously planned.

Warning that budget uncertainty could have “enormous implications” for public services, John Stevenson, president of Unison City of Edinburgh branch, said: “The impact on morale could be huge – people are queuing up to get out.

“At the moment, nobody knows what the new council structures are really going to look like or what finances will be available. For departments like health and social care, which will have to provide packages of care for the increasing number of elderly people in the city, managers will not know what they are able to do.”

Council plans to save £126m over four years were based on the expectation of a 1.6 per cent funding cut – less than half the decrease announced by Mr Swinney earlier this week.

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “A reduction in revenue of the scale being proposed will undoubtedly have a negative impact on vital services that local government is responsible for delivering – the children in our care, the elderly struggling with dementia, and vulnerable adults whom we assist daily; all these individuals rely on the support that only a council can provide.

“Of course we will continue to work with our colleagues in COSLA, to try and reach an improved negotiated settlement, but given the Scottish Government has confirmed their final Budget will not be approved by Parliament until the end of February, we may now have to seriously consider delaying the finalisation of the city’s own budget for 2016-17.”

Councillor Sandy Howat, deputy leader, added: “The harsh reality is that this will translate to real job cuts that hit real families, in real communities throughout our capital city.”