Scottish government's budget boost for Edinburgh Council is smart or cynical politics – John McLellan

After years of councils facing crippling cuts from the Scottish government when its budget was increasing, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has announced a big cash injection which when it all shakes out will mean an extra £14m for Edinburgh Council.

Call it cynical or smart politics, but we are three months from an election.

Before last week’s announcement, Edinburgh residents were facing another 4.79 per cent hike in council tax as officers were expecting another 0.7 per cent budget cut. Instead, they got a 1.6 per cent increase and also the option to accept a further £9.6m if they agreed to freeze Council Tax.

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The problem is that the £9.6m is only equivalent to a 3.1 per cent council tax rise, so a freeze will actually cost the council £5m and the overall boost to the budget will be approximately £9m.

Further, the council tax freeze subsidy is only a one-off so the problem will return next year, but if the administration decides to press on with a 4.7 per cent rise then that cash will be budgeted in next year as well.

The answer is for the council to agree the freeze but the Scottish government to guarantee that the local government settlement is not a one-off and their support for local services will continue after the pandemic.

But having failed to persuade the Scottish government in the past to give Edinburgh a fair settlement who is to say the local leadership will have any success in the future?

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