Council’s chief gives in to ‘hypocritical’ government demands

John Swinney - victory over Moray-led council tax demand
John Swinney – victory over Moray-led council tax demand

COUNCILS HAVE CALLED an end to their dispute with the Scottish Government and accepted the terms laid out by Finance Secretary John Swinney.

Today is the deadline set by Mr Swinney for acceptance of his terms which effectively puts an end to a train of events started by Moray Council’s December announcement of their intention to raise council tax by 18%.

Leaders in Moray had already said there is no hope of their breaking the Council Tax freeze in the face of the £5million in penalty charges that would result, but on Monday the president of the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) said that the deal would be accepted.

However, Cosla president David O’Neill hit out at the Scottish Government, saying that it was “hypocritical” of them to place sanctions on local authorities that they would never themselves accept from the UK Government.

While accepting that the £774million reduction in the local council grant would be agreed, Mr O’Neill added: “All we are expecting for local government is the same level of respect that the Scottish Government demand from Westminster in areas such as discussions on the [Scotland Bill] fiscal framework.

“There they would rightly find it unacceptable if Westminster was to impose a deal that sanctions and cut across the collective democratic view of the Scottish Cabinet.

“It is hypocritical for them to demand that, as they hold the power, everyone else has to accept it or be punished in the most draconian of fashions.”

Meanwhile Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale used a visit to a nursery in Glasgow to hit out at the Scottish Government, saying that their budget had included a 57% cut in council funding for the building of new nurseries required to meet the SNP’s 600 hours of free childcare pledge.  She said: “Nicola Sturgeon made a promise to families across Scotland – she would stand up against austerity and invest in the future.

“Instead, today she will force councils across Scotland to sign up to hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts – or face sanctions of hundreds of millions more.  These cuts will be devastating to schools and children’s services throughout Scotland.”

Moray Council will meet next week to discuss their 2016/17 budget with the ruling administration expected to confirm that around £8million will be withdrawn from reserves to help meet the total £11million shortfall in funding requirements.

A Scottish Government spokesman said that the pressures on local councils and tax payers throughout Scotland was recognised, adding: “That is why it is important to maintain the council tax freeze while we consider ways to replace it.”