Liberal Democrats: Humza Yousaf to blame for Council funding crisis

6 Nov 2023

The Liberal Democrats have called for a fairer deal for local councils and strongly condemned the underfunding of local services that have led to fears of service cuts and closures of local facilities across Scotland.

Speaking at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Edinburgh on Saturday, Rutherglen Councillor Robert Brown, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on South Lanarkshire Council, said that a large part of the blame for the situation lay at the door of the SNP Scottish Government and of First Minister Humza Yousaf in particular.

Robert Brown said:

“Over the last decade the Scottish Government’s budget in real terms has gone up by over 4% whilst Council budgets, like for like, have gone down by over 9%, again in real terms. Each salami slicing step was accompanied by announcements that SNP Government largesse was delivering hundreds of millions to councils – fairy gold that vanished like snow off a dyke before the day was out.

The First Minister’s Conference announcement of a council tax freeze made a total nonsense of his pious sentiments about a fresh partnership with councils. It had neither Cabinet sign off nor agreement from Councils – indeed COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) had never been told of it, far less agreed it.

The stark fact is that, even with a hefty Council tax increase or equivalent funding, Scottish councils are still left with a huge gap in their finances caused by record inflation and by the Scottish Government’s failure to provide the Fair Funding Deal that COSLA has rightly demanded and which is backed by all Parties. Government is about hard choices and, if the Scottish Government has £200million or maybe £400 million to spare to fund the council tax freeze, then a better choice would have been to provide extra support to councils to sustain the local services that local people, not least the most deprived, rely on.

Every hall, leisure centre or swimming pool forced to close; every teacher or support assistant councils cannot afford to employ, every care package that cannot be fulfilled, every pothole in the road will be the responsibility and the fault of the Scottish Government. These are cuts fashioned by the SNP First Minister imposed on communities across Rutherglen and South Lanarkshire and across every council area in Scotland.

Local government is important; it does good things; it can respond to a crisis like Covid with flair and flexibility in a way that distant Ministers in Edinburgh or London cannot. It has a strong local democratic mandate of its own. It is time the SNP respected that democratic mandate.”