Council chief calls for cash to fill £2.7m budget gap

A SNP local authority leader is calling for more cash from the Scottish Government to plug a £2.7 million gap caused by budget cuts.

Jonathan McColl of West Dunbartonshire. Photograph: D C Thomson

Jonathan McColl of West Dunbartonshire council moved a motion warning that the cuts would hit the most vulnerable hardest and has vowed to lobby Finance Secretary Derek Mackay for more cash.

Following this month’s Scottish budget, the council has outlined a “worst case scenario”, which details £1.1 million cuts to the local authority plus £1.6 million cuts to the health and social care partnership. The worst case scenario explores options including cutting devolved school budgets by 10 per cent, removing clothing top-up grants for poor children, introducing pre-packaged school lunches, training community groups to man school crossings and closing Dalmuir municipal golf club.

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McColl described some of the savings options as “horrific”, adding that he did not want to go down that route.

The action that is taken will depend on the final local government settlement arrived at by Mackay in the New Year.

“Obviously none of us want to do these things but it all depends on what happens in February,” McColl said. “It is my job now as a the leader of the local council to try and first of all get more money out of the Scottish Government, albeit that the situation there is incredibly difficult given their budget constraints.

“My primary responsibility is to the people of West Dunbartonshire, not to the party. It is my job to get what I can locally.”

Mackay said: “It’s the job of council leaders to argue for more resources, just as I did when I had that job.

“But in spite of cuts to the Scottish Government’s overall budget we have continued to treat local government – including West Dunbartonshire – very fairly,” he added.

“When specific revenue grants are included, local government are seeing a small cash increase in their funding.”