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Highland Council leader calls for UK and Scottish Government to ensure transparency on Barnett formula cash for local authorities

By Alasdair Fraser

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The Leaders of the Highland Council, councillor Margaret Davidson
The Leaders of the Highland Council, councillor Margaret Davidson

Highland Council’s leader is calling for greater clarity on how the UK and Scottish Governments allocate cash to local authorities through Barnett consequentials.

UK Government funding is distributed in two ways, either to the UK as a whole or specifically just to England when spent on matters devolved to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations.

The Barnett formula is the mechanism the UK Government uses to proportionately share additional funding with those devolved governments.

Councillor Margaret Davidson, The Leader of The Highland Council, wants the Scottish and UK Governments to work together more closely and end “drip fed” and “ring-fenced” funding processes

Cllr Davidson this week wrote to the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the UK Government Chief Secretary to the Treasury asking both governments to commit to improvements.

At a recent meeting of the Council, the following motion was agreed:

“Highland Council requests that the UK and Scottish Governments work together to provide complete transparency to Scottish Local Authorities – and the Scottish people – on all matters pertaining to Barnett consequentials.”

In her letter to Kate Forbes MSP, Cllr Davidson said: “The Barnett process is at best oblique and seems shrouded in mystery.

“It does not provide the transparency and clarity that should be expected from a modern democracy.

“Highland Council’s motion is asking both governments to commit to working together to improve the process, the understanding and the information that is made available in relation to Barnett consequentials.

“It is worth noting that according to COSLA, to support the pandemic response, Scotland has had guaranteed additional funding from the UK Government of £8.6 billion, with the Scottish Government choosing to route £1billion through local government.

“The Scottish Government needs to be much more open about the rationale behind its decisions on the use of Barnett consequentials.”

Cllr davidson also wrote: “Any additional COVID-related funding for 2020-21 from the UK Government that is due to increased expenditure in local government in England should be passed on to Local Government in Scotland in full.

“In addition, COSLA has highlighted that at the end of December 2020, there were 30 different ring-fenced/directed pots of funding. All of these come with an additional administrative burden.

“This approach reduces Councils’ ability to respond to local needs and demands. Funding has been drip fed between April and December, creating uncertainty and instability.

“We need an end to small pots of ring-fenced, highly directed funding which is not within the core Settlement and allow local government the freedom to act in the best interests of its local citizens.”

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