Supporting local Government recovery

Local MSP Kate Forbes has slammed the figures as a scandal. NO F48 Kate Forbes on Raasay
Finance secretary Kate Forbes.

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Argyll and Bute Council has welcomed a Scotland-wide package of financial flexibilities and extra funding which could be worth up to £750 million.

Agreed by the Scottish Government in partnership with COSLA the package will help to address the financial pressures caused by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic over the next two years, councils will be granted additional spending powers which could be worth around £600 million.

A spokesperson from Argyll and Bute Council said: ‘We welcome the new measures that have been made available to councils and will consider what that means for Argyll and Bute.

‘Argyll and Bute’s council was there for local people and businesses when they needed support, and that will continue.’

In addition to the extra funding, a Lost Income Scheme will be established to help compensate councils and council trusts for lost sales, fees and charges from services such as sports centres and parking charges.

A report that went to council in September showed that responding to Covid-19 is likely to have cost Argyll and Bute around £11m. However, money already received from the Scottish Government reduced that deficit to £5.1m. This will be in addition to the £6.7m funding gap estimated for next year.

‘Our resources were already stretched, but we changed how we worked to be there for our communities during the worst of the pandemic,’ added the council spokesperson.

‘Additional costs have been a mixture of increased expenditure for new or expanded services and loss of income, such as reduced fees for parking, ferries, piers and planning.’

Councils and their trusts will have access to an estimated £90 million of funding with council trusts delivering services on behalf of councils able to receive a share of a further £49 million of support through the scheme.

Added to additional funding already committed, this brings the value of the overall Covid-19 support package for councils to more than £1 billion.

On announcing the additional support last week finance secretary Kate Forbes said: ‘I have been clear that the Scottish Government needs appropriate fiscal levers in order to respond effectively to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘That is equally true for local government, which is why I am very pleased that we have been able to deliver a package of support for local services worth up to £750 million.

‘Working in partnership with COSLA, the Scottish Government has delivered on our commitment to support councils across Scotland with a game changing package of financial flexibilities, giving them the powers they need to make informed decisions about spending at a local level.

COSLA’s resources spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor said: ‘Responding to Covid-19 whilst continuing to deliver essential, everyday services has put extreme pressure on Local Government finances this year.

‘The pandemic has also meant substantial losses of income across a range of council services including leisure, sport, culture, and planning. Balancing budgets will be a real challenge and this has been fully recognised by Scottish Government who we have worked with constructively and positively.’