Nicola Sturgeon dubbed ‘Minister for Cuts’ amid councils ‘crisis’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon talks with Vittoria Di Duca during a visit to Midlothian Community Hospital (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon talks with Vittoria Di Duca during a visit to Midlothian Community Hospital (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell - WPA Pool /Getty Images)

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Nicola Sturgeon has been branded Scotland’s “Minister for Cuts” amid claims that local councils are in crisis over the extent of cuts in the Scottish Government budget.

Labour will today launch its campaign for the local council elections in May by stepping up the pressure on the Scottish Government over the £327 million cuts to direct council budgets contained in the 2017-18 draft budget.

However, Finance Secretary Derek MacKay insisted that other funding for frontline services has minimised the impact of cuts, and invited local authorities to raise the council tax.

Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley will today launch his party’s vision for local government, pledging to invest in Scotland’s under-threat public services.

Mr Rowley, who will be Labour’s campaign manager, will set out the party’s plans at a keynote speech in Edinburgh.

Speaking yesterday, he said: “The First Minister promised voters she would be a champion of the poor and the working class. Instead, she has become the nation’s Minister for Cuts.

“This year, the cuts to local government will amount to £327m. Our councils are in crisis.

“Scottish Labour wants to invest in public services and the workers who provide them, to ensure all of us have access to the good quality services we value.”

Labour is the first party to launch its plan for local government ahead of May’s elections. The document to be published today is the party’s national framework. Individual Labour groups in towns and cities across Scotland will produce local manifestos in the coming months.

Mr Rowley will be joined at today’s event in Edinburgh by Labour council leaders from across the country.

Finance Secretary Derek MacKay has insisted that his draft spending plans for 2017-18 would deliver £700m of additional resources. Ministers said £120m from its own funds will be handed to headteachers, while £35m will go to the integration of health and social care which will help frontline services.

SNP council election campaign co-chairwoman Susan Aitken said: “Labour have a cheek to claim that their councillors will prioritise investment in public services, when they have already privately admitted that their focus in this election will be to cling to power in areas where they can prop up the Tories.”

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