However, their comments have been slammed by the SNP for containing a “quite breathtaking” lack of understanding on public sector spending arrangements in Scotland.
Moray Labour leader John Divers followed up comments made on Thursday by his local party colleague Sean Morton about the reported underspend, in which he criticised the Scottish Government for allowing such a surplus to happen when local authorities had struggled against cuts to services and threatened school closures.
Councillor Divers said: “At a time when local people are bearing the brunt of budget cuts it is just not on that the government would sit on their hands when they have half a billion pounds they could use to help.
“We in Moray Labour are calling for them to release that funding to local authorities now.
“Myself and Cllr Morton would like to scrap community care charges here in Moray – which are a tax on sick and disabled people relying on carers. A tiny fraction of the half billion could be used to make that possible. We call on the SNP to release the money and help us axe care tax.”
However, last night the SNP’s depute group leader at Moray Council, Graham Leadbitter, hit back, saying: “It is a bit concerning that a Labour Councillor understands so little about public finance.
“While £400million is a significant amount of money the actual amount of underspend that the Scottish Government has direct control over is around £145million – all of which the Government has made clear it will be investing in services and the economy.
“Given the size of the budget for the whole of Scotland this represents about half a percent of the total. As a comparison, Moray Council underspent by around 1% last year.
“This of course does not mean that the money disappears, it is used the following year so the current public money being allocated to services in Moray includes money from last year and so on.
“A bit like holding on to a few pounds up till pay day and adding on your next pay – a pretty normal occurrence in anybody’s budgeting!
“It is completely misleading to suggest that this won’t be spent in communities around Moray and across Scotland. The lack of knowledge shown of this by someone who should really understand public sector spending arrangements is quite breathtaking.”