Scottish councils need Barnett formula for fair funding, claims Tories

MSPs are being asked to back a proposal to introduce a Barnett formula for funding Scotland’s councils.

The Scottish Conservatives want Holyrood to create a new fiscal framework for councils which would see an automatic amount transferred each year from the Scottish Government’s budget.

The idea is being backed by Scottish Labour, and both parties have accused the government of “historic underfunding” of council budgets.

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Statistics show that between 2013 and 2020 local government settlements fell by £276m in real terms and this year's budget sees Scotland’s 32 councils facing a shorfall of £511m as a result of the pandemic.

Annie Wells MSP wants to see a Barnett style funding formula for councils.

However the motion, being debated in Scottish Parliament, for an “automatic” transfer of money is not supported by the government, which instead wants any new framework to be “developed in partnership with local government”.

Scottish Conservative local government spokesperson Annie Wells, who lodged the motion, said: “For 14 years the SNP have raided council budgets. This has run down local services like roads, schools and housing across our country from the Scottish Borders to Orkney and Shetland.

“Our proposals will guarantee substantial funds for our councils to spend on local priorities. It would mirror the Barnett Formula where the Scottish Government receives a block grant from the UK Government each year.

“Councils must have enough spending power and their funding shortfalls plugged if we are to ensure Scotland’s economic recovery after the coronavirus."

Scottish Labour’s Sarah Boyack has lodged an addendum to the motion, saying that the “Scottish Government’s historic underfunding of local government funding means that there must be an increase in capital spend” and that it “must be a priority as it is fundamental to building back better services, supporting communities and protecting jobs."

The debate has been welcomed by Cosla and a spokesperson said: “The value of local government can be seen in our response to Covid-19, where councils have taken decisive action to support communities, people, and businesses.

“For too long now local government has been given a poor diet by the centre – and that is why we developed the Local Government Blueprint, which is our menu for change that we want to see. But it needs a fair funding deal for Scotland’s councils.”

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