The County You Live, Work And Play
NLC Leader Slams SNP Funding Deal
Jim McCabe has accused finance minister John Swinney of “financially starving the council into submission” as North Lanarkshire agreed to the Scottish Government’s financial settlement – “reluctantly” and “under duress”.
The council leader called the Holyrood position “a deliberate attack on local democracy”, adding: “It is an unmitigated attack on the poor and most vulnerable, and is reminiscent of Mrs Thatcher’s attacks via capping and poll tax.”
He was writing to the deputy first minister ahead of Tuesday’s deadline for local authorities to indicate whether they would sign up to the funding package; including conditions on maintaining teacher numbers and the council tax freeze, and in relation to health and social care integration.
Councillors on the policy and resources committee were told in a report at their meeting on Monday that “the council is facing, on a like-for-like basis, a 3.9 per cent or £24.598 million cash reduction in revenue grant funding between 2015-16 and 2016-17”.
Accepting the settlement, Councillor McCabe wrote to Mr Swinney: “We are of the view the choice you have given local government is politically Hobson’s choice. Our hands are tied and we must reluctantly accept the offer as dictated.
“It is our view that you have a clear centralisation agenda. You are using local government as a pawn in a game, where teacher numbers are protected without any business case to indicate benefit, where social work funds are channelled through the NHS – politics at its worst to try and fool the electorate you are protecting and investing in [it].”
Councillors were told that not signing up to the agreement would result in a further estimated funding reduction of £25m.
The area’s Labour councillors had last week joined activists including representatives of the GMB, Unison and Unite trade unions to protest at Holyrood against council budget cuts.
Councillor McCabe said then: “The SNP’s cuts will have a detrimental impact on every community in North Lanarkshire – they will reduce or remove vital services, take support away from vulnerable people and put hundreds out of work.”
Mr Swinney wrote to councils: “This funding package is focused on delivery of our joint priorities to deliver sustainable economic growth, protect front-line services and support the most vulnerable in our society.
“I fully understand the pressures on budgets, which are being felt across the whole of the public sector, but I firmly believe that the funding proposals I have set out for local government protect our shared priorities and deliver practical financial support.
“Local government is a key partner in our programme to reform and improve services.”