Derek Mackay: door is open to constructive talks to pass budget
Derek Mackay said he recognises he will need to compromise as he is in a minority government, however he is confident that it will be approved.
Unveiling the Scottish Government’s 2018-19 draft Budget on Thursday, Mr Mackay announced that councils will have an increase in ‘’core funding’’ of £94 million - adding that if authorities increase council tax charges by the maximum of 3 per cent, this would raise a further £77 million. He also ended the public sector pay freeze.
The Greens have said they could not support the budget as it stands because there is a “real terms cut in the local government revenue budget” but could do so if an extra £150 million was allocated to councils.
However Mr Mackay said he has given local authorities a fair deal.
Speaking on a visit to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow on Friday, he said: “For local government I’ve given them a very fair settlement, they were forecasting a 3 per cent reduction and that’s £300 million of a reduction, that’s not what I’m proposing.
“I’m proposing flat cash, that’s about the same amount of money with more for capital, and if local authorities use their council tax powers up to 3 per cent then they will have a real terms increase.”
Labour have raised concerns the pay increase does not apply to 243,000 local government workers as the budget states that matters relating to their pay and employment are delegated to councils.
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Asked whether if local authorities don’t raise council tax 3 per cent council workers would be the only public sector workers left without a pay rise, Mr Mackay said: “That would be up to local authorities, they have control over their pay policy and the council tax up to a limit cap of 3 per cent.
“What I’m describing is I’ve protected their budgets, I’ve enhanced capital budgets for local authorities and if they use their powers they will have more money in real terms and it’s in that fiscal environment that I do believe that they can engage constructively with their own workforce.”
The budget also introduced a new five band system of income tax that will leave those on a salary of £33,000 or above paying more, while health spending next year will increase by more than £400 million taking the overall total to over £13 billion.
The Greens said they could not back the draft budget in its current state but that there are other elements they can work with the government on.
Asked how much more the Greens would want for local government for the budget to be acceptable to them, Green MSP Andy Wightman told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “We want a real terms increase and that would involve somewhere in the region of £150million as I calculate it this morning”.
During his visit Mr Mackay said he would be open to talks, saying: “I’m in a minority government, I have to compromise to get a budget through.
“I believe I’ve compromised already in terms of our tax position and I think I’ve delivered much in the way of spending that the opposition parties, if they were fair and reasonable, should welcome.
“But of course my door is open to constructive talks to make sure that we can get a budget through so we can deliver for Scotland, a fair budget, one that delivers stability, stimulus and sustainability for our public services such as the NHS.”
He added: “Am I confident this budget will pass? Yes I am.”