Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The worst revenue settlement since devolution

Rarely in my near 18-years as a Local Councillor have I seen so much spin and manipulation of figures, as that which I've witnessed in the last 72-hours.

To be fair, when it comes to the Scottish Government Draft Budget Settlement, as announced last Thursday, both proponents and opponents must be about as dizzy as each other.

And to be clear, I really don't care much what those in the Holyrood legislature (it's called that, because that's what people who work there are supposed to do - legislate) argue one way or the other ... what I care about, as a Council Leader, is trying to ensure we deliver services locally to the very best of our ability and to do so within the finances that are available to us.

And having first been elected on Thursday 6th May 1999, I've actually witnessed every single Local Government Budget Settlement since devolution from very close quarters - as for each of those near 18-years, with the exception of 2007/8, I've been a Senior Councillor ... and since 2012 I have obviously been the Council Leader here in Edinburgh.

I think it's also fair to say that I'm not exactly someone who can very easily be categorised as unnecessarily, politically-tribal in my outlook ... epitomised by my current Leadership of the only two-Party Labour/SNP Coalition across the whole of Scottish Local Government.

But, tragically, the undeniable conclusion that I've regrettably come to is that, for the City of Edinburgh Council, this is the worst revenue settlement from the Scottish Government since the onset of devolution in 1999.

Of course, I know the Budget announced on Thursday last week is still Draft, and that it may change between now and its final adoption - but as things stand at the moment; year-on-year, we've got some £37million less revenue from the Scottish Government this year, than last, to spend on services. 

That's on top of recent, and recurring, revenue reductions all of which has led to the Council having well over 1,300 less people in employment than 2-years ago.

And this is all against a backdrop of the Scottish Government actually receiving, year-on-year, more revenue this year than last, from the Westminster Government.

Yes, we're now allowed to raise Council Tax by up to 3% - and I welcome that flexibility being returned to Local Government ...

... and yes, any additional monies from the adjusted E/F/G/H Council Tax bands will also remain with Local Government - I warmly welcome that, and want to thank Derek Mackay for actually listening to the arguments from Councils on that specific point.

But I cannot welcome a general revenue grant settlement for Edinburgh, that sees the funding received from the Scottish Government being reduced, this year compared to last, by some £37million.

I understand that it's a choice the Scottish Government is entitled to make - but what's particularly galling is that other choices were available, which would have negated the need for any year-on-year revenue reduction.

At the Council, we'll simply get on trying to ensure we deliver services to the very best of our ability, within the finances that are available to us - but please spare me any further spin ...

... as sadly - my measured conclusion is clearfor the City of Edinburgh Council, this is currently the worst revenue settlement from the Scottish Government since the onset of devolution in 1999.

1 comment:

Bruce Whitehead said...

Spot on Andrew. The SNP government won't raise taxes to protect essential services, but they expect councils to do it. It's indefensible.