FURIOUS Labour councillors are lambasting the Scottish Government for what they claim is an “unethical and dishonest” budget settlement which will cause job losses, harm to local services and a funding gap of £600,000.

A special meeting of North Ayrshire Council is being held this afternoon (Wednesday, January 18) at which Labour councillor Robert Foster will put forward a motion, seconded by Councillor Nairn McDonald, demanding urgent action.

The motion reads: “North Ayrshire Council expresses its extreme disappointment with the budget settlement for local government and with its presentation which the Labour group believe is both unethical and dishonest and is in no way consistent with a partnership approach.

“Council notes that most of the supposed £550 million additional funding is for existing commitments and that the £71m of uncommitted funding goes no way towards meeting the identified budget gap in council funding of £612m due to inflation, energy prices and demand pressures and the requirement for more than £400m likely to be needed for pay settlements in the coming year to address recruitment and retention issues and avoid understandable industrial action by trade unions. 

“This budget settlement means another massive real terms cut in councils’ core funding, after more than 10 years of real terms cuts, and will lead to socially harmful cuts to vital local services and the loss of jobs within local authorities and from local companies that rely on councils for their employment.

“Council further notes the additional burden on council finances from revaluation of non-domestic properties and condemns the threat by the Scottish Government to cut grant funding if councils were to be successful in appealing against re-determinations.

“For North Ayrshire Council, the initial assessment of the local government settlement by the council’s finance team estimates a budget gap of over £10m in 2023/24. Council therefore agrees:

  • That the council should make a robust public response to the budget statement, challenging in the strongest possible terms the presentation of the supposed £550m additional funding and highlighting the massive real terms cut in funding for vital local services;
  • That the CEO writes a letter to the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister on behalf of the council that rejects that this is a fair settlement; highlighting the massive real terms cut to the council’s funding and the impact this budget settlement will have on vital local services and demanding a fair settlement to defend vital local services and jobs;
  • That the council undertakes an assessment of the likely job losses within the council and local economies that will result from this budget settlement;
  • The council agrees to offer a meeting of group leaders with the local government trade unions to set out our assessment of this budget settlement and seek to undertake joint action to defend vital local services and jobs.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The Scottish Government recognises the crucial role councils and their employees play in our communities across Scotland and the challenging financial circumstances they face.

“The Scottish Government’s settlements from the UK Government have suffered a decade of austerity with average real terms cuts of over five per cent, equating to a loss of £18 billion.

“Despite this, we have listened to councils and are increasing the resources available to local government by over £570m, a real terms increase of £160.6m or 1.3 per cent.

“We want to work with local government, to build on the Covid recovery strategy and agree an urgent approach which improves delivery of sustainable public services.”

In 2023-24, North Ayrshire Council will receive £335m to fund vital day-to-day services, which equates to an extra £20.5m or an additional 6.5 per cent compared to 2022-23.