Edinburgh’s credit card is maxed out and budget jiggery-pokery won't fix it - John McLellan

Despite Scottish Government coffers swelling by £4.6bn this year to £41bn, and an additional £440m in emergency Covid funding from the UK Treasury, Scottish councils say they will still be £100m short of where they need to be.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes says she doesn't recognise claims from Scottish local authorities that they are around £100m short from where they need to be, writes John McLellan.  Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/Getty.
Finance Secretary Kate Forbes says she doesn't recognise claims from Scottish local authorities that they are around £100m short from where they need to be, writes John McLellan. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/Getty.

Finance minister Kate Forbes says she “doesn’t recognise” the claims, which is usually Government-speak for “you’re right but I’m not going to admit it”, but it appears that increases handed to local authorities come with strings attached to help the Scottish Government hit centrally dictated policies.

Most people would agree with increasing investment in vital areas like education and social care, but it means that other responsibilities might not get the funds they need and Council Tax going up to meet the cost of unprioritised basic functions like waste and roads.

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So complicated is this year’s deal that Edinburgh’s finance officers were this week still trying to work out the implications for local services, despite the budget being announced a fortnight ago, but it’s unlikely to be good news for Council Tax payers.

It’s already known that Edinburgh’s credit card is maxed out because of a string of huge spending commitments over the next ten years, so accounting jiggery-pokery between capital and resource budgets won’t work.

Despite billions already coming north, and after securing £16m for the Granton gasometer project, local officers might have to make a beeline to the Scotland Office to seek help with a Christmas list of more projects they can’t afford, and explain why.

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