What’s in it for our councils, angry Labour MSP asks the First Minister

  James Kelly MSP and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

 By Lizzie Healey

Labour MSP James Kelly has asked the First Minister if there is anything for Scotland’s councils in Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement.

Mr Kelly told the Holyrood parliament: “The recent Scottish National Party-Green budget resulted in councils being forced to make cuts and to pass them on to local communities.”

These ranged, he said, from job cuts to withdrawal of support to citizens’ advice bureaux  and the axing of free school bus travel.

He asked Nicola Sturgeon: “Will any Barnett consequentials (new money) that become available following yesterday’s spring statement be allocated to local councils, which have needed to inflict pain on local communities?”

The First Minister replied: “We have no clarity on whether there will be Barnett consequentials or on the amount of any Barnett consequentials.  When we find out that information, we will share it with Parliament.

“James Kelly talked about budget decisions. I thought that the Labour group’s decision yesterday to vote against an increase in the carer’s supplement was absolutely and utterly shameful. It was the only party in the Parliament to vote that way.”

That statement from the FM has been challenged by Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie and appears as part of report on that debate elsewhere in this issue of The Democrat.

Ms Sturgeon added: “More broadly, the budget for local government has increased, which is positive, but we do not pretend that life is easy for local councils in the current climate.

“If James Kelly is as concerned as he claims to be about cuts to local government budgets or in any other part of the public sector, is it not time that he started to direct some of that anger at the Tory Government, which is the architect of such cuts?

“I remind him that, between 2010 and the end of the decade, the Scottish Government’s budget will have been cut by £1.9 billion in real terms—that is the reality—and, frankly, what we are living with is as a result of his work with his better together Tory partners in the 2014 referendum.”

The First Minister spoke about “chaos”  – “The spring statement underlines again the chaos at the heart of the UK.

“It showed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has billions of pounds available that he could be investing in public services but has instead had to set aside to pay for the self-inflicted mess that is Brexit.

“The UK Government’s chaotic approach to Brexit is already undermining the economy. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecast is that UK growth will slow and that, in both 2018 and 2019, business investment will contract.

“That would represent the weakest period of business investment since the 2008 financial crisis.”

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