Councils in north-east Scotland are facing crippling budget cuts following John Swinney’s budget.
The Scottish Government will snatch millions of pounds from the already depleted coffers of the local authorities.
According to government estimates, the “totally unacceptable” 3.5% cut will result in Aberdeen losing £7million, Aberdeenshire £4million and Moray £3.7million.
Mr Swinney said the budget offered a “strong but challenging” financial situation for councils and that the Scottish Government would now work with them to agree “how best to deliver this realignment of resources”.
But the president of Cosla, the umbrella group that represents Scotland’s 32 local authorities, branded the settlement “catastrophic”.
David O’Neill said: “Cosla got a very clear steer from council leaders this afternoon that the package of measures for local government is totally unacceptable.
“This is a budget that hits the council workforce in terms of job losses, it hits the child in care, it hits the elderly struggling with dementia and the vulnerable adults, all of whom solely rely on the support that only a council can provide.
“A cut of 3.5% is catastrophic for jobs and services within Scottish local government – because the harsh reality is that it actually translates to real job cuts that hit real families, in real communities throughout Scotland. Everyone will be hurt by this.”
Meanwhile, local authorities across the north-east have said that some “tough decisions” will have to be taken following the deputy first minister’s announcement, while some said the cuts could run much deeper than the Holyrood estimates had suggested.
Aberdeen City Council’s finance convener Willie Young said the budget was a “disaster” for local government, adding: “I really do worry for local services in the city, we will do our best to ensure staff and jobs are protected but it is going to be very difficult – Mr Swinney has put the squeeze on councils.”
But while opposition councillors acknowledged savings would have to be made, they were quick to defend the budget, and said the SNP government had “protected” local authorities from an even tougher financial situation.
Councillor Graham Dickson said: “I’m very thankful that the reduction in local government spending is a smaller proportion than the cut in the overall Scottish budget from Westminster.”
Moray Council’s convener, Allan Wright, said the authority could lose out on as much as £5million.
He said: “I think local authorities are being hard done by, when you consider the NHS has got an increase and some other organisations are too, this imposition from the Scottish Government is totally unacceptable.”
SNP opposition leader, Councillor Gary Coull, said that the budget had put Scotland’s councils in a better position than their counterparts in England, but would not rule out voluntary redundancy measures.
He added: “It’s something we done in the past when savings have had to be made, and the staff at Moray Council have been excellent, hopefully compulsory redundancies is not something the council will have to look at.”
Aberdeenshire Council’s co-leader, Richard Thomson, said “significant savings” would have to be made.
He said: “As an administration, we’ll be working closely with our senior officers over the next few weeks to go through the fine detail of the announcement to ensure that we deliver a balanced budget for next year while protecting the services which matter most to our residents.”
However opposition leader Jim Gifford accused the government of being influenced by politics in its budget choices, and said: “With health and the police being protected, there have clearly been political decisions made and John Swinney has chosen local government to take the hit yet again.”