Denials from Holyrood as Moray fears £1.25m cut in revenue

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MORAY COUNCIL CLAIMS that it could lose out by over £1million as a result of the accounting error revealed by the Scottish Government in a letter last week.

However the main outcome is confusion after all Councils received the memo revealing that, because there had had been an error in relation to criminal justice cash being accounted for twice, the total amount that would be distributed to Councils in Scotland would be £86million less than previously indicated.

The Scottish Government has now dismissed the claim – saying that they were only responding to requests for budget adjustments made by COSLA.

However, local authorities believe that the letter was an indication that their revenue share would fall – with a Moray Council spokesman indicating that their best estimate of that was £1.25million, adding that they were awaiting a definitive figure.

A Scottish Government spokesman insisted that the claims of an £86million drop in the headline figures were “completely untrue”, adding: “Not a single penny will be removed from the provisional local government financial settlement issued on December 14.

“This marked the start of the statutory consultation period with local government on the terms of the settlement and the indicative allocations to individual authorities. As a result of this consultation period we have been requested to make some adjustments to the provisional allocations by COSLA, on behalf of local government, which we will respond to this week.”

The accusation on Monday came from the co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, Jenny Laing, who last night said: “The Scottish Government is denying the error and using smoke and mirrors in an attempt to distract people from the issue in hand.”

Meanwhile COSLA confirmed that the memo sent to all Councils on Friday did say that there had been an error by the Scottish Government “in calculating the local government settlement”, adding that it related to “criminal justice monies that they had deducted twice from the distributeable revenue funding monies that are used to calculate the floor”.

Moray’s MP Douglas Ross last night entered the debate, saying: “It is totally unacceptable and a complete shambles for Derek Mackay to tell councils now, as they are finalising their budget plans, that he’s made a mistake with his accounting and there will now be even less money available to local councils.

“How can someone who is allocating reduced budgets already to local authorities not realise that they’ve allocated money that was meant to be ring fenced for criminal justice to two separate areas.

“Moray councillors have already started planning how they can make savings of £15 million this year due to cuts in their funding over many years by the SNP Government. It was only in December that councils were told how much their budgets were being sliced for the coming year, now they face having to make even deeper cuts.

“The SNP have let Moray down badly here and I hope they will accept their mistake and don’t punish Moray further by following through with this further reduction.”