Finance Secretary facing questions as councils claim cuts ‘inevitable’

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay is facing questions about the impact of his budget on councils after local authority leaders warned cuts were now “inevitable” to services which had previously been protected.

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee are due to question both Mr Mackay and Gail Macgregor, the resources spokeswoman for the council umbrella group Cosla.

It comes as Holyrood steps up its scrutiny of the Finance Secretary’s proposed tax and spending plans for 2019-20.

Mr Mackay has already insisted councils will get a real-terms increase in both their revenue and capital funding, with cash for local government to total £11.1 billion in the coming year.

But a submission from Cosla, sent to the committee ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, warned that the Scottish Government’s draft budget would have a “major impact” on their work.

Across Scotland, local authorities are responsible for a host of services, including the provision of schools and care services, social work support, rubbish collection and street cleaning.

Cosla stated: “The consequences of the announced cuts will have a major impact on the essential services provided by local government across Scotland and will severely limit our ability to invest in people, places and the economy.

“This settlement will impact jobs, frontline services and economic growth.”

The local government body argued councils have “done all that they can to make efficiencies and protect services” in previous years.

Cosla warned: “The efficiencies which were made in the past to protect these services have already been made and cuts to previously protected services will be inevitable.”

It insisted that while Mr Mackay had presented the budget as including a “slight increase” in council spending, the “reality of this for local government is a cut to core budget of £237 million”.

However, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have continued to ensure that our partners in local government receive a real terms increase in funding despite further cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government.”