Earlier tonight, the City Council's first main committee meetings on 2016 took place and Policy and Resources Committee was dominated by a report on the local government financial settlement for the forthcoming financial year.
The report from council officers correctly points out :
The outcome of the Westminster Spending Review was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 25 November 2015. The Scottish Budget totals show a cash increase of £1 billion (3.3%) between 2015/16 and 2019/20, largely due to the Barnett consequentials of changes to other Whitehall departmental budgets. When adjusted for projected inflation, however, this represents a real terms reduction of 4.1%. For 2016/17, the year-on-year cash increase is £0.5 billion (1.7%), which represents a standstill budget in real terms.
However, despite being given "a standstill budget in real terms" in terms of the Scottish Block from Westminster, John Swinney, the Scottish Government Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and the Economy is wielding the axe to local government, with a cut of £350 million, which results in Dundee City Council facing cuts of some £23 million in the next year.
I have been a member of the council for nearly 15 years and this financial settlement is by far the worst I have ever seen. The claims of Scottish Government Ministers to be "anti-austerity" can now be seen for the wholly empty rhetoric it is and I do not under-estimate the scale of the financial disaster Scottish Government is imposing upon vital local services.
Tonight, I moved the following amendment at committee - unfortunately the council administration voted it down, despite the fact that I purposely wrote it in a manner designed to be consensual and non-confrontational :
Policy and Resources Committee : 11th January 2016 : Item 3 (a)
Amendment by Councillor Fraser Macpherson
Add an additional recommendation :
2.8 Instructs the Chief Executive to write to the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and the Economy expressing the council’s deep concern at the inadequate level of revenue and capital funding allocations for 2016, indicating the council’s disquiet that the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and the Economy is proposing that local government bears a disproportionate share of government funding reductions in 2016/17 and requesting that the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and the Economy reviews the position with a view to increasing local government revenue and capital funding allocations for 2016/17.