Edinburgh council leader Cammy Day snubbed by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes over talks
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The council is facing having to find £63 milllion in budget savings next year with more cuts to come in future as the government imposes a real-terms freeze on its financial support.
Councillor Day has repeatedly highlighted Edinburgh’s position as the lowest-funded council per head of population out of all Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
And he wrote to Ms Forbes, asking for a meeting, just a week after being elected council leader at the head of a minority Labour administration in the wake of the local elections in May. He wanted talks to highlight the particular pressures facing the Capital, including the shortage of housing and the high demand for care.
But now he has been told she is too busy to meet him.
He said: “I’ve recently written to the Finance Secretary asking to meet her, and I’ve had a letter back saying No. That's quite unhelpful as a starting point, that the Finance Secretary is not willing to meet the leader of the capital city to talk about the pressures we've got.”
The reply, sent by her private secretary, said: "Unfortunately, due to diary pressures, Ms Forbes will have to respectfully decline your request for a meeting at this moment in time. There will be opportunities in future for discussions with individual councils and Ministers will continue to engage regularly with your national organisation Cosla.”
Cllr Day said he was disappointed at the response since he had held talks with Ms Forbes along with the then council leader Adam McVey when they shared power in the previous SNP-Labour administration and she had indicated a willingness to have a follow-up conversation.
He said: “It’s my job as leader of this council to stand up for the city. I will not be shy of telling the Scottish Government, or the UK Government, when they're getting it wrong – and they're getting it wrong when Edinburgh is the lowest-funded council in Scotland despite having the biggest pressure on housing and social care.”
The Fraser of Allander Institute has said the Scottish Government’s recent spending review will see funding for local government fall by seven per cent in real terms over the next four years.
In an interview with the Evening News, Cllr Day called for the revival of the Capital City Supplement, an extra amount first secured by the late independent MSP Margo MacDonald in 2009 and paid to Edinburgh from the Scottish Government’s budget in recognition of the additional costs the city faced.
And at the last full council meeting, councillors agreed to invite the Finance Secretary to address a future meeting of the city council and answer their questions on the Scottish Government's real-terms funding cuts to the authority.
Cllr Day said: “We will continue to fight for fairer funding for the capital city. Year on year, we have had cuts in our funding from the Scottish Government. The reality is the capital city is the lowest-funded council in the whole of Scotland, despite us being the economic driver for the country.”