South Scotland MSP, Michelle Ballantyne, is calling on the SNP government hand over the ‘missing millions’ due to councils immediately.
In this week’s local government committee meeting at Holyrood, Cosla confirmed that they still haven’t received the £155m promised by the SNP government to local authorities to help them deal with the Covid crisis.
The UK Government announced that Scotland would receive £155m in Barnett consequentials for local government on the 18th April.
Many councils voiced their discontent after the SNP’s Finance Secretary suggested that they drain their already-depleted reserves to plug any funding gap - while refusing to hand over the £155 million until she had been told how much councils need in emergency support.
While initially reluctant, the Scottish Government finally agreed that all of this money would be given straight to local authorities, on the 6 May.
Once the £155 million is handed over, councils will still be out of pocket by around £100 million – and that gap is expected to rise as the pandemic continues.
Since the pandemic began the Borders economy has continued to suffer job losses as firms such as Ovo Energy and Mainetti have closed their outlets.
Councils are also facing revenue shortfalls due to non-domestic business rates being frozen, a lack of car parking revenue and hiked costs for emergency measures and allowing staff to socially distance and work from home.
Michelle Ballantyne MSP commented:
“Whilst many of us are struggling financially during this difficult period, so too is the council which has found that it’s resources have been seriously strained.
“This is why the UK Government has spent over £10bn to help people in Scotland. Around £155m of this was set aside for our local authorities however this just hasn’t reached Scottish Borders Council or other local authorities.
“Councils came into this crisis ill-equipped to cope after years of the SNP slashing their budgets to the bone.
“Despite this, local authorities have worked tirelessly on the frontlines keeping essential services running and supporting their residents and businesses through this crisis.
“First the SNP made them fight for the money and now, for unknown reasons, they still haven’t handed it over.
“This is a totally unacceptable situation; the SNP government must hand over these missing millions to councils now.”