SNP under pressure over plans for £1bn of fresh cuts to councils

Alex Rowley warned of more cuts
Alex Rowley warned of more cuts
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THE SNP government has come under attack over the prospect of up to £1 billion of fresh cuts to councils in Scotland prompting fears over frontline services.

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon prepares to rally activists in Glasgow tomorrow at the party’s autumn conference with a pledge that the party’s is “starting a new chapter” in government.

“Local services cannot take another £1bn of cuts. Our schools and our social work departments will be cut to the bone”

ALEX ROWLEY Labour interim leader

After the recent launch of the party’s Programme for Government, Ms Sturgeon has said in advance of the conference that “it’s time for a fresh policy agenda”.

The Programme for Government unveiled last month included bold measures to fast-track the push to electric vehicles, end the public sector pay gap and introduce low emissions zones for Scotland’s cities.

But opposition leaders warned of fresh cuts to local government and an increasing SNP centralisation agenda as they addressed town hall chiefs yesterday. Both Labour interim leader Alex Rowley and Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie hit out at the Scottish Government at the annual Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) conference yesterday.

Mr Rowley said the worst-case scenario could see councils lose more than £1bn from their budgets by 2021.

Local authorities have already had £1.5bn removed from their funding since 2011, according to Labour, with Mr Rowley warning that more was still to come. “Local services cannot take another £1bn of cuts,” said Mr Rowley. “Our schools and our social work departments will be cut to the bone.”

Mr Rennie used his speech to warn that the Scottish Government is “on a path to remove the challenging voice of Scottish local government’’.

Ministers are “opposed to challenge’’ from councils, the Liberal Democrat said, as he argued this would result in the loss of ‘’local accountability, local services and local clout to challenge government’’. A spokesman for local government minister Kevin Stewart responded: ‘’These claims are wrong – the SNP government is committed to delivering more powers to local communities.’’

SNP business convenor Derek Mackay said the party has ambitious plans to “move Scotland forward.”

He said: “Despite years of Tory cuts, we’re delivering the best public services anywhere in the UK and protecting the most vulnerable in society and supporting family budgets. We’ve delivered record funding and over 12,000 more staff for Scotland’s NHS, and recorded crime is at a 43-year low. Higher pass rates are over 150,000 for the third year in a row, and record numbers of young Scots are being accepted to university.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney will address delegates tomorrow. Nicola Sturgeon will close the gathering on Tuesday.