South Ayrshire Council Leader Statement: Scottish Local Government Financial Settlement 2017/18

 15 December 2016  |  

Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, said:

"While we have yet to see the detailed budgetary breakdown from the Scottish Government and get the chance to properly assess what this will mean for our services, it's clear that – once again – local Councils are being left to pick up the pieces from a harsh and unfair financial settlement, courtesy of the Scottish Government.

"Today's settlement, which represents a significant cut in the grant funding for Councils, highlights the preposterous approach being taken by this Government in terms of its financial planning.

"Once again, we have a one year settlement – which helps no one – and just a matter of weeks to drill down into the detail of what will be required to balance the books.

"In all likelihood, we will need to find additional savings – and these are savings that will, as we have seen this year, have a very real and significant impact on our people and communities.

"It's frankly ridiculous that, despite our significant efforts to take a planned and prudent approach to our budget-setting, we now have to respond and deliver a balanced budget in completely unrealistic timescales.

"It's almost as if the Scottish Government is setting Councils up for a fall, rather than supporting them to be the best they can be.

"We don't yet have sufficient information to determine, in real terms, exactly what the reduction in our funding will be. However, every additional percentage reduction in our funding – over and above the 1.5% we had anticipated and planned for – means we will need to find an extra £2 million. That's £2 million less for our economy, adults and older people, the environment, young people and communities.

"So, while it's too early to assess the exact level of savings we'll need to find – and we'll be working on this in the coming days and weeks – it's clear that a gap will exist. And while there may be scope for that gap to be bridged from the Council Tax increases imposed on bands E to H by the Scottish Government, it's simply giving in one hand and taking away from the other.

"The Scottish Government needs to understand that every penny taken from our funding means that we need to look at reducing services, or stopping them altogether, and that really does affect the quality of life for many people. We'll also need to give detailed consideration to the possibility of raising Council Tax across the board – over and above the increases imposed by the Scottish Government.

"The Scottish Government had a terrific opportunity to show its support for local government – which impacts on people's lives day in and day out – but, regrettably, has allowed that opportunity to pass it by.

"It will now be our job to make the best of the situation the government has created to make sure we continue to work with our partners and communities to make life better in South Ayrshire."