Local Labour representatives have condemned the SNP Government for failing to deliver a budget that will provide the resources needed to meet the additional costs caused by Covid-19 and properly fund local services for the year ahead.
The recently published Accounts Commission annual report on local government finances confirmed that local authorities across Scotland, which were already under acute financial pressure before the start of the pandemic, have incurred almost £800m in additional costs due to the impact of Covid.
However, the budget only allocates around £2m in additional funding to East Lothian for 2021/22, an amount that will not even begin to cover either the longer-term funding gap or the extra costs incurred because of the pandemic.
Iain Gray MSP said:
“The measly £91m additional funding allocated for all of Scotland’s 32 councils will go nowhere near bridging the huge Covid funding gap that has built up over the last year. And that is before the longer-term pressures caused by years of SNP cuts, underfunding and ringfencing are considered.
“We have been arguing for the additional Covid funding SNP Ministers have received to be given to councils to help them deal with issues like home-schooling and supporting local businesses. The reality of the draft budget is that it will again leave East Lothian at the back of the queue when it comes to funding for our vital local services.”
Depute Council Leader Cllr Norman Hampshire said:
“East Lothian Council has suffered 14 years of underfunding from the SNP government which has had a detrimental effect on our ability to deliver essential services, such as social care for vulnerable older people and additional support for children,and support communities. Council leaders from across Scotland have expressed their disappointment with the core grant proposed in the budget, which fails to provide the funding we so desperately need.
“I’m pleased that COSLA has agreed to continue fighting for the funding necessary to maintain local services like schools, social care, environmental services, roads and transport and community facilities. Labour councillors in East Lothian will be part of arguing that case to get the resources we need to fund services and support communities recovering from the pandemic.”
Martin Whitfield added:
“SNP ministers have for too long ignored the needs of East Lothian and its people. The County has one of the fastest growing populations in Scotland but has faced year after year of cuts to funding for local services. If I’m elected to Holyrood in May I will campaign for fair funding for East Lothian to protect local services and value council staff.”