By Lucy Ashton
Jackie Baillie has accused the SNP Government of short-changing local communities as it emerged the two Council areas in her constituency have been underfunded by more than £370 million in the last decade.
Figures revealed to Scottish Labour ahead of a crucial debate in the Scottish Parliament this week laid the situation bare.
They show that since 2013/14 until the current financial year 2022/23, cumulative cuts to the non-ring-fenced budget of West Dunbartonshire Council total £141.9 million.
The SNP budget approved this year in West Dunbartonshire has left a £14 million black-hole for next year with no free reserves left to draw on.
In addition, SNP Council Leader Jonathan McColl promised to seek a meeting to raise the concerns over funding with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance when the budget was set in March, however this has never materialised.
Cllr McColl was roundly criticised last year when he promised the Council he would meet the then Finance Secretary, the disgraced Derek Mackay, and plead with him to review the cash allocation to West Dunbartonshire.
Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie, ex Finance Secretary Derek Mackay and SNP controversial council leader Jonathan McColl.
Instead of going to Edinburgh to do that officially, Cllr McColl claimed he did it over a pint at an SNP social function in a Stirling hotel.
Ms Baillie says the money situation is even worse in neighbouring Argyll and Bute where the local authority has seen cuts to its non-ring-fenced budget over the same period to the tune of £232.7 million.
Both authorities sit in the top 10 out of the 32 Council areas in Scotland when it comes to cuts to their budget.
The revelation came as MSPs debated the implication for Scotland of the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund which the Labour Party argues fails to meet the Tory manifesto commitment to replace Scotland’s EU Structural Funds in full.
Jackie Baillie said: “The SNP and Green Government cannot stand up and chastise the UK Government for cuts to funding while is has sliced £6 billion from Councils since 2013, including more than £370 million from the local authorities in my constituency.
“This is sheer hypocrisy from the SNP who act as though they have the best interests of the people in local communities at heart. How can they if they are willing to slash funds which directly impact local hard-working Council staff who provide lifeline services to people, all while the money they receive from the UK Government is increasing in real terms?”
Labour Group Leader, Martin Rooney added: “We should be creating jobs and boosting local communities including helping up-skill people to bring them closer to the employment market.
“Standing up for our communities means funding them and neither of Scotland’s two governments are prepared to do that. It is also the case that the SNP Council here have left a £14 million budget gap going into the next financial year.
“It is a double whammy and shows clearly why Scottish Labour is the only party which wants to ease the impact of the cost of living crisis and truly look out for hard-working people including those delivering frontline council services.”