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Highland Council fears capital funding cut by a third despite Scottish Government budget promises

By Scott Maclennan

Kate Forbes speaking in Holyrood.
Kate Forbes speaking in Holyrood.

Highland Council has given a “very cautious” response to the Scottish Government’s budget and claims that funding has been increased.

The budget statement was delivered by Highland MSP Kate Forbes after finance secretary Derek Mackay resigned over allegations he bombarded a 16-year-old boy with messages online.

According to the Scottish Government the budget delivers £11.3 billion for vital council services in 2020-21 and provides councils with an increase in day to day revenue spending of £494 million.

In addition, the SNP claims that all government commitments have been fully funded while an extra £100 million will go to social care, including a contribution of £25 million to ensure all care staff are paid the living wage.

Should councils need to raise more cash the government has empowered them to again have the flexibility to raise council tax by up to three per cent in real terms which could deliver a total of £135 million more to local services.

Margaret Davidson.
Margaret Davidson.

But council leader Margaret Davidson would not endorse the claims made in the budget because it would take more time to study the details.

She said: “It will take a few days to assess exactly what this means for Highland Council, and how much of this funding is ring-fenced.

"Local authorities continue to face extremely challenging pressures. It is extremely concerning that capital funding available to local authorities appears to have reduced by about a third.

"This is in the context of our need for considerable investment in our vast infrastructure in the Highlands.

"There is also significant uncertainty around what will result from the UK government’s budget announcement next month.”

Cabinet secretary for local government Aileen Campbell said: “This budget provides a fair settlement for our partners in local government and supports vital public services across Scotland.

“Taken together with the flexibility to increase council tax, this local government settlement gives councils an increase of revenue spending of up to 4.3 per cent in real terms to deliver local services.

“The settlement will deliver on our joint key commitment to expand the funded hours of early learning and childcare this year, funds a fair pay deal for our teachers, and invests more than £120 million targeted at closing the attainment gap through the Pupil Equity Fund.

“This increased settlement will ensure fair, sustainable funding for local authorities.”

Related article: Highland MSP delivers Scottish Government budget after resignation of finance secretary David Mackay

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