Scottish government council cash sets off alarm bells for Falkirk councillors

Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn and Falkirk Labour Group leader Dennis Goldie had different opinions about the Scottish Government's local government settlement for 2018/19
Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn and Falkirk Labour Group leader Dennis Goldie had different opinions about the Scottish Government's local government settlement for 2018/19

A “more favourable” than expected Scottish Government financial settlement still set off alarm bells among some Falkirk Council members.

At a meeting of the full council on Monday, members heard a report on the Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2018/19 and the local government finance settlement which comes along with it.

The total funding which will provided to councils in 2018/19 is £10,507.1 million.

Falkirk’s provisional revenue allocation is £266 million, which, although a cash 
reduction of £3.7 million, is 
better than had been anticipated.

For 2018/19 local authorities will also have the flexibility to increase council tax by up to three per cent.

In a letter to all the local authorities, Scottish Finance Minister Derek Mackay stated: “This settlement is set against the context of the continuing austerity imposed on Scotland by the UK Government, which means that by 2019/20 the Scottish Government’s fiscal block grant allocation will be £2.6 billion, or eight per cent, lower in real terms than it was in 2010/11.”

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “I think it is to be welcomed we have had a more favourable settlement than expected. This is part of a draft budget by the Scottish Government – the process is still to be completed – but I believe we should accept the settlement.”

Opposition leader Dennis Goldie said he could not accept the budget settlement if he did not yet know the full details contained within it.

He added: “It’s a scandalous situation when people in local government have again had a delay in finding out what kind of money we are going to have available to spend on council services.

“As we stand here today we don’t know what the budget is going to be. There is going to be a reduction in jobs and services, we do know that will be in the budget.”

Councillor Goldie put forward an amendment rejecting the settlement until it is known exactly what it contains – despite Mr Mackay stating any individual authority not intending to agree the offer and accept the full package of measures and benefits would receive a revised – and inevitably less favourable – offer.

Members voted 19 to 10 to accept the settlement from the Scottish Government.