Edinburgh must cut council spending by £39 million next year

THE cuts needed to balance the books at the city council next year have jumped from £28m to £39m after the latest funding squeeze from the Scottish Government.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 20th December 2018, 5:00 am
Edinburgh City Council HQ
Edinburgh City Council HQ

And the Capital has been revealed as having the lowest government funding per head of any Scottish local authority.

Unison branch president John Stevenson warned any more cuts were likely to hit frontline services.

He said: “The level of cuts to so-called backroom operations is now leading to inefficiencies on the frontline, so if you’re looking for more cuts the idea of protecting frontline services is out the window.

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“The council coalition really needs to be putting the case to the government that local government can’t be discriminated against. Nine out of ten public service jobs which have gone in Scotland are from local government and it just cannot thole any more cuts.”

The city’s SNP-Labour administration had expected to have to cut £28m from the budget, but a briefing to councillors from senior officials spells out how a bigger cut in government funding, an increase in the pay offer for council staff and other factors had increased the figure to £39m.

Tory finance spokesman Graham Hutchison said the real figure for cuts could be even higher. “We need to bear in mind that one-off cuts have been made during the year to meet the overspend in areas like health and social care, but these will not be available again, so that’s probably another £10m of cuts on top.

“The Scottish Government has got to fund local 
government properly, but it is also a question of priorities for the council. Things like the tram extension, when we are failing to provide basic services, need to be dropped now.”

Scottish Parliament research showed Edinburgh’s cash works out at just £1426 per person, lower than any other council in Scotland.

Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “Edinburgh is once again at the bottom of the pile in terms of funding from the Scottish Government. The SNP leadership in the council need to explain how their influence has benefited this city, because it looks like it has resulted in Edinburgh being short change yet again.”

Green finance spokesman Gavin Corbett said he could not recall a bleaker financial outlook. “Successive years of government failure to grasp the nettle of council funding reform are now coming home to roost and the losers are people who depend on vital public services like social care, schools and community facilities.”

But he pointed out the budget was still in draft. There are expected to be changes when the SNP has negotiations with Green MSPs to get it passed in parliament.

Liberal Democrat Neil Ross said unpalatable decisions would have to be made and “nice to have” services could face the axe. He said: “The council should focus on getting basic services right and funding them properly.”

Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes said councils were receiving fair funding despite further cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK government.

“Edinburgh City Council will receive £839.6m to fund local services in 2019-20, this includes an extra £1.7m to ensure that all local authorities receive at least 85 per cent of the Scottish average revenue funding per head.”