Labour warn North Ayrshire faces a £20m funding gap

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The Scottish government’s budget was passed after the SNP struck a deal with the Greens last week.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said the budget included more core funding for councils and extra powers for them to levy local parking and tourist taxes.

The budget also included a £90m for the core local government settlement, an increase in the cap on council tax rises to 4.79 per cent, as well as cross party talks on replacing the tax and a move to three-year local authority budgets.

The North Ayrshire Council share of the local government settlement is £249.5 million – a reduction of £4.6 million or 1.8 per cent. The council meets on February 27 to set its budget for 2019/20

Here North Ayrshire Council Labour leader Joe Cullinane gives his verdict on the budget:

‘Between December and now, the Scottish Parliament has received £150 million of new ‘Barnett Consequentials’ from Westminster yet the great negotiators, the Scottish Greens, have extracted less than two-thirds of those funds to protect vital public services. £54 million of the new Consequentials are instead being squirrelled away in Derek Mackay’s slush fund.

‘This means that North Ayrshire Council’s core revenue grant is being cut by around £4 million and with no financial support for the local government pay award nor a solution to the shortfall in teacher’s pensions, our funding gap for next year is £20 million.

‘Having failed to use their own fiscal powers to protect vital local services, the SNP and Greens are instead shifting the responsibility, and consequentially, blame onto councils for the difficult decisions that lie ahead.

‘Arbitrarily raising the Council Tax cap to 4.79 per cent makes the system of local government finance even more unequal – the more affluent parts of Scotland, which have plenty of Band F, G and H Council Tax properties, can raise substantially more than areas like North Ayrshire where the majority of our properties are in the lower bands.

‘We then have the absurdity of a workplace parking levy. Quite rightly trade unions are lambasting this absurd idea of taxing workers to get to their work, especially at a time when the local government and teachers pay awards are not finalised. The SNP and Greens seem to think it would be acceptable to give our hard working public servants a pay rise in one hand and then take it away with the other. North Ayrshire Labour will not be hammering workers with this absurd tax.

‘This remains a cuts budget imposed on communities by the SNP and Greens in Edinburgh. Our SNP MSP’s should be ashamed of the cuts they are pushing through – and its little surprise that they won’t debate me in public to defend their cuts.

‘North Ayrshire Labour will continue to fight against the cuts. Having broken their silence over the budget, it seems our SNP counterparts on the Council are now happy to endorse the cuts.’