The leaders of Scotland’s biggest cities have launched a stinging attack on John Swinney’s “pistol to the head” tactics after being forced to accept cuts of £350 million to their budgets.
All of Scotland’s 32 councils are expected to sign up to the swingeing reductions. Town halls must agree to a freeze in the council tax, maintaining teachers numbers and the amalgamation of health and social care - or face even harsher cuts as they lose out on their share of a further £408 million.
Glasgow City Council leader Frank McAveety, the former Labour MSP, said: “We have signed up to the Swinney Tory budget with great reluctance.
“This is the most draconian budget ever inflicted on the people of Glasgow by any Government. Worse than that it comes with ‘pistol to the head’ sanctions.
“Glasgow faces £133m of cuts in the next 2 years. If we don’t sign up for that the Scottish Government will hit us with an additional £50m of sanctions. “Don Corleone” Swinney is making us an offer we can’t refuse.”
A number of Labour councils are taking legal advice on the prospect of mounting a court challenge to the cuts.
Edinburgh has already accepted the cuts of £78 million to its budget and council leader Andrew Burns, has hit out at the cuts in a letter to Mr Swinney, claiming the budgets are imposed with “punitive financial penalties.”
He added: “It makes a mockery of any semblance of a belief in local democracy.
“To be clear, I am not in any disagreement on the potential social-value of the policies being pursued – but I am genuinely saddened at the way in which Local Government is, frankly, being centrally directed.”
Mr Swinney has previously suggested that the reaction from council leaders has been over the top
A Scottish Government spokesperson said today: “We have received a number of responses so far – all of which indicate acceptance of the deal on offer.”
Ministers say the deal will “transform the provision of social care in Scotland” with a £250million investment in integrating health and social care services.
She added: “We recognise the pressures on budgets across the whole of the public sector, and in households throughout Scotland, which is why it is important to maintain the Council Tax freeze while we consider ways to replace it - as well as reimbursing local authorities to ensure they can continue to provide essential services. Recent independent research found that the Scottish Government has actually over-funded the council tax freeze to this point.”