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Note: Can cut, but need Labour/SNP balance
North Ayrshire Labour have slammed the SNP government’s budget as one that will ‘rip the heart out of communities’.
They claim last week’s draft budget leaves a budget blackhole of around £17m in North Ayrshire Council’s budget for 2018/19 – the biggest single year deficit in the local authorities history.
Labour had previously revealed that the Scottish government directly controls 83 per cent of the council’s budget. The only tax power available to councillors is to raise the Council Tax but the SNP Government have again announced a cap on increases of 3 per cent. A 3 per cent increase in Council Tax would only raise £1.7m in North Ayrshire – a 10th of the council’s financial blackhole.
Speaking after the draft budget was published, Labour leader Joe Cullinane said: ‘This SNP budget leaves North Ayrshire Council facing the biggest deficit in its history.
‘It leaves our local services on life support. £73m has been cut from the Council’s budget since 2010 and we now face a huge deficit next year of £17m. After years of austerity there is no fat left in local government, these cuts will cut straight to the bone.
‘This SNP budget will quite literally rip the heart out of communities across Scotland with everything from libraries to community centres, schools to elderly care and anti-poverty initiatives all under threat.
However, the SNP couuncil group has welcomed the budget and say that under current SNP Government proposals, North Ayrshire Council’s funding settlement will again see a slight increase this year, to £267,887 million.
North Ayrshire SNP finance spokeswoman Councillor Christina Larsen commented: ‘I am pleased to once again see a slight increase in the proposed funding settlement for North Ayrshire Council. The finance secretary managed to avoid making cuts despite having to deal with more than £200 million to Scotland’s block grant, as announced by the Tories only last month.
‘Apart from this funding settlement, North Ayrshire Council will of course also continue to be allocated its share of a variety of central resources throughout the year, such as the new £179 million of the Scottish Attainment Fund for 2018-19, including £120 million in Pupil Equity Funding to be spent across Scotland at the discretion of headteachers on closing the attainment gap.
‘Other resources will include a share of the £243 million in 2018-19 to work further towards increasing fully funded early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours from 2020.’
‘On top of that, the Labour administration has powers at their disposal to raise another £1.863 million if they opt to increase Council Tax by 3 per cent, giving North Ayrshire Council an overall real-terms increase in the funds at their disposal to support local services.’