By Bill Heaney

The leaders of ten of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, including West Dunbartonshire, have written to the First Minister criticising the lack of support for struggling Councils in year’s Programme for Government.

Labour hopes that Humza Yousaf, whose full statement on the economic programme is published in The Democrat today,  would move away from the SNP’s centralised approach to local government were dashed when he failed to deliver vital progress on the promised Fiscal Framework for Local Government.

Scottish Labour has previously called on a Barnett-style formula to be introduced to ensure Council funding keeps pace with Scottish Government funding – but the SNP has refused.

The joint letter accuses the SNP government of offering Councils “woeful scraps” in this Programme for Government and “tinkering with the unfair, broken Council Tax” system.

The letter, signed by all Scottish Labour Council leaders including Cllr Martin Rooney, said “Plans to tinker with the unfair, broken council tax are just one example of the woeful scraps your government offers Councils up and down the country time and again.

“These proposals are nothing more than a result of your government’s failure to abolish the council tax – made worse by the failure to properly fund vital public services.

“Our communities must be empowered. We needed your first Programme for Government to see power pushed out of Holyrood alongside a Fiscal Framework which guarantees that local government funding keeps pace with the Scottish budget, so Councils can deliver the change their communities need.

“When you announced the agreement in June, you promised a collaborative approach to deliver sustainable services, a just transition and to tackle poverty.

“We are ready to work in partnership and cooperation that will deliver for our communities and build a stronger economy and better jobs – but to do that you need to give a personal commitment that the funding cuts will stop.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, right,  said:  “Liberal Democrats wanted to see the First Minister offer answers on crumbling concrete roofs, real help to make homes warmer, or adopt our plans on everything from stopping sewage dumping to repairing the crisis-engulfed NHS.

“People are really struggling and it is clear neither the SNP or Conservative governments are equal to the challenges. It’s time to reach for a better future and Scottish Liberal Democrats will be part of what’s next.”

SNP leader Stephen Flynn, top of page,   ignored the concrete crisis in England at Prime Minister Questions in the Commons as he once again targeted Rishi Sunak over claims that the economy is suffering under his leadership.

With the SNP dealing with similar issues with Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) but being less open, it was no surprise the Westminster leader avoided that line of questioning, which was utilised by Sir Keir Starmer.

Rishi Sunak batted away concerns about the economy by pointing out that the revised figures showed that the UK had one of the fastest growing economies following Covid.

Mr Flynn said: “The public needs no reminding that today marks a year since the Prime Minister’s predecessor took office. And upon her speedy departure, we all thought that things were going to get better.”

Following Gillian Keegan’s potty-mouthed outburst in the Commons yesterday, rear ends were once again to the fore.

Mr Flynn said: “But when we look at unemployment figures, they are higher. When we look at food prices, they’re higher. When we look at mortgage rates, they’re higher and economic growth is stagnant. So can I ask the Prime Minister, when is he going to get off his backside and do something about it?”

Mr Sunak pointed out that he has heard this same criticism many times from Mr Flynn and his colleagues, and heard how “somehow we were a laggard when it comes to growth.”

He added: “What he didn’t do is take the opportunity to correct the record today, now that the full figures have been published which demonstrate in fact we have the fastest recovery out of any European economy after Covid.”

Rishi Sunak at PMQs

Rishi Sunak at PMQs in the House of Commons today.

The UK economy did make a stronger recovery during Covid at the end of 2021 than previously estimated according to sharply revised official figures. Data revealed that the economy was 0.6 per cent bigger in the final three months of 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels. The previous figures said that the UK economy was 1.2 per cent smaller.


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