SNP council funding cut 'equivalent to £1,500 per household', claims Anas Sarwar

Scottish councils have faced a real-terms budget cut of 2.4 per cent or more than £1,500 per household, a Scottish Labour leadership hopeful has claimed.

Analysis by Anas Sarwar’s leadership campaign team claims there is a gap of £627 million in council funding in the Scottish Government’s budget, rising by 3.1 per cent in real terms since 2013/14.

Mr Sarwar claims that due to year-on-year funding decisions by the Scottish Government not to pass on the increase in its budget to councils and by comparing the actual funding with it adjusted by inflation, local authorities have missed out on £3.86 billion cumulatively since 2013/14 – the equivalent of £1,544 per household.

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He claims the largest councils in Scotland – Glasgow City and Edinburgh – face a £77m and £47m shortfall respectively due to the Scottish Government not passing on the increase to its budget.

Scottish Labour leadership hopeful Anas Sarwar has called for fairer funding for local councils.

However, the claims were described as “misleading” and “not true” by the Scottish Government, which said councils would see an increase of funding this year of 3.1 per cent.

The Scottish Labour leadership candidate said it was time to give the councils the money they need to improve local services.

Mr Sarwar said: “Years of Tory austerity have been hard enough for families and communities across Scotland, without the SNP adding to the pain by taking an axe to local services.

“The SNP can’t blame the UK Government for these cuts. It has chosen to skim funds from local authorities and hoard funding in Edinburgh.

“These year-on-year year cuts left our local councils at their weakest when they were needed most during this pandemic. They now face their toughest challenge yet.

“Instead of the SNP’s philosophy of centralising and hoarding power and funds in Edinburgh, we should give resources and power back to local communities and invest in local infrastructure to create jobs.”

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson said councils had received a “fair share” of funding and would receive a further £1.2bn in Covid-19 funding over this year and next.

The spokesperson said: “These claims are misleading and in some instances are simply not true. Scotland’s local authorities will receive an increase in revenue funding in 2021/22 of £335.6m or 3.1 per cent and not a 2.4 per cent cut as claimed.

“The Scottish Government is committed to protecting the funding to the NHS. Once the health funding is discounted the Scottish Government’s resource budget has reduced by 3.1 per cent in real terms for the remainder of the Scottish fiscal resource budget.

"Despite this, local government has been treated very fairly with council’s revenue funding having increased in cash terms by £1.3bn or 12.1 per cent between 2013/14 and 2021/22.”

The claims come as councils demanded Scottish political parties commit to a “menu for change”, including “fair funding” for local government in their manifestos.

Cosla president Alison Evison claimed local authorities had for “too long” been given a “poor diet” in terms of the funding they received from Scottish ministers.

She called for the removal of ring-fenced funding pots where councils had no choice on how cash was spent and for a move away from centralisation, adding: “For too long Scottish local government has not had its rightful place at the top table.”

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