`Climate emergency' budget could see recycling centres in Scotland axed

Kate Forbes says overall council budgets are rising
Kate Forbes says overall council budgets are rising
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Recycling centres could be axed in Scotland as a result of cuts in the Scottish Government's £34 billion "climate emergency" budget unveiled last week, MSPs have been told.

Dozens of jobs could also be shed as Town hall chiefs face up to a £95 million reduction in budgets which are not "ring-fenced" for central Government initiatives, Pubic finance minister Kate Forbes was today warned.

She insisted that the overall budgets for councils is rising by almost £500 million but said a "decade of austerity" is still taking its toll as she appeared before Holyrood's Finance committee.

Ms Forbes stepped in to deliver last week's budget on the day that Derek Mackay quit over inappropriate text messages to a 16-year-old boy.

The Scottish Government's budget has gone up by between 3.7-5%, Tory Finance spokesman Murdo Fraser said, but local government body COSLA has warned councils face a £95 million cut to revenue budget which are not ring-fenced for central government projects.

"Fife Council in the area I represent, which is an SNP-Labour joint administration, even with the maximum uplift in terms of tax, are looking at £12 million of cuts at a cost of 90 jobs - that's 90 people losing their employment as a result of this offer," Mr Fraser told the minister today.

"I had meeting on Friday with Perth and Kinross Council, a Conservative minority administration, they were looking at making budget savings. One of the things they might have to cut is local recycling centres in rural communities - which would mean people living there would either have to not recycle or face a 20-30 mile round trip to the nearest recycling centre."

He added: "There would be a real irony if a budget if a budget meant to tackle the climate emergency passed on cuts to local councils which meant they were less able to take measures to tackle climate change - in fact which make it more difficult"

Ms Forbes is holding talks with Cosla chiefs today and she has pledged to continue negotiations with the council body.

She told MSPs: "I don't think there's any way you can get away from the fact that we're still dealing with a decade of austerity - no matter which way look at it.
"In the last two years, Chancellors have announced that that year would be an end to austerity and that hasn't been the case."

Ms Forbes said the budget seeks to support local authorities to mitigate climate change with measures such as the "heat network challenge."

She insisted that Perth and Kinross, as well as Fife will see their overall budgets rise to fund the "public serves that people expect to see."

"Our commitment has always been to protect local authorities as far as we are able and I think that's why the point can be made that while local authorities in England and Wales are - to quote COSLA's finance spokesperson - collapsing, that's not the case in Scotland."

The minister admitted there has been a "slight increase "in the Scottish Government's budget.
But she added: "There is still a squeeze in most portfolio areas, with the exception of health."
The Scottish Government has factored in an additional £1.1 billion of additional heath spending and £468 million of other cash, as result of additional cash coming from Westminster.
But she added that many other areas outside health are seeing "real terms" decreases in their budgets.