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Anger as local government faces ‘funding freeze’ in spending review

Kate Forbes has said local authorities have been “treated fairly”. (Jane Barlow/PA)
Kate Forbes has said local authorities have been “treated fairly”. (Jane Barlow/PA)

Indicative plans from the Scottish Government project a funding freeze for local authorities until 2026/27.

The spending review outlined on Tuesday by Finance Minister Kate Forbes has set out indicative plans for the remainder of this parliamentary term.

Projected spending for local government is at £10.6 billion each year from 2022/23 to 2025/26, and £10.7 billion in 2026/27.

But Labour MSP Mark Griffin has said the funds would see about £900 million of real cuts stripped away from councils by the end of the parliamentary term.

He said: “The Cabinet Secretary’s claims of a new deal for local government, in fact, sounds the death knell for local government as we know it.

“Today’s review plans a further £900 million of real cuts by 2026/27 on top of a decade of cuts that has libraries closing, roads crumbling and bins overflowing.

“Does the Cabinet Secretary not accept that there is nothing more to cut from local government – that the grinding down of local government and services is what has gotten us into this mess and it won’t get us back out of it?”

But Ms Forbes said the Scottish Government had treated local authorities “fairly” while giving them as much “clarity” as possible over the spending reviews.

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur also hit out at the plans for a National Care Service – included in £73.1 billion investment for health and social care.

He said: “It has barely been three weeks since the elections where the SNP and Greens told voters about their commitment to local government.

“We now see what those promises were worth. Cash for local authorities is effectively frozen for the remainder of this Parliament, meaning real terms cuts to local services.

“The Government intends to spend countless millions stripping powers from local authorities to create an expensive centralised national care service.

“If the UK Government treated the Scottish Government in this way can the Cabinet Secretary advise local authorities what the appropriate response would be?”

Ms Forbes told Mr McArthur that one of the primary reasons for setting out a spending review was to give local authorities “clarity” going forward within the spending parameters.

She said: “I’ve said it already, I’ll say it again. This is not a budget.

“I can only spend what is allocated to me by the UK Government in light of a £5.2% cut between last year and this year and an outlook where inflation is eating into our spending power, we have treated local government fairly.”

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