West Lothian Council at risk of even more cuts
WEST Lothian Council could risk a reduction in funding from the Scottish Government after it did not meet the deadline for signing up to the proposed finance package for next year.
Labour council leader John McGinty wrote to SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay warning the proposed settlement would result in “significant pressure on clearly hard-pressed council services” and cause the loss of more council jobs.
Councillor McGinty told Mr Mackay the letter, dated January 19, was “neither an acceptance nor a rejection” of the government’s funding offer.
But the government has previously said any council which did not accept the offer by January 20 will receive a “less favourable offer”. At least 11 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have now written to Mr Mackay raising objections to the 2017-18 draft budget.
In his letter, Cllr McGinty said the UK government’s funding to the Scottish Government had increased by £400 million, councils were being asked to accept a like-for-like reduction of £350m.
He wrote: “I would appreciate an explanation as to why the vital services provided by local councils have been allocated such an extreme reduction in funding at a time when Scottish Government funding is increasing.”
He said West Lothian’s core revenue funding for 2017/18 was £298m, a £10m cut from 2016-17.
“You will understand that such a significant reduction in funding, notified to councils at very short notice, makes setting a balanced budget for 2017-18 extremely difficult.
“This is all the more challenging in the context of cumulative reductions of £93m over the ten year period 2008 to 2018.”
Allowing for other cost pressures, including a pay award and rising inflation, he said total savings of around £16m would be needed to balance the budget.
“I would call on you to provide West Lothian Council with a full and fair financial settlement for 2017-18.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said: “Councils across Scotland have made it clear they will not be bullied by Derek MacKay.
“They have told him that SNP plans to impose cuts on councils for services such as education and care for the elderly are wrongheaded.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have received no rejections from councils.
“It is now for local authorities to finalise their budgets, at their council budget setting meetings which will take place over the coming weeks.”