“More money” and spending cuts for local government

As expected, the Scottish Greens concluded a deal with the SNP to ensure the Scottish Government’s first budget of the new Parliament will pass.  As expected, politicians from both parties have been lauding the outcome of this deal.  As expected, the contents of their proclamations enjoy a tenuous relationship with reality.

 An extra £160m for councils announced by @DerekMackaySNP. Delighted that my constituents will benefit from the extra £17m for @glasgowCC Nicola Sturgeon, Twitter


The concession we won today means over £17million for services in Glasgow alone. Green MSPs making a real difference for public services. Patrick Harvie, Twitter 

Extra money for councils, £160m of it, must be good, right?  Those parties complaining about local government cuts look like fools now.  Glory be to the great Scottish Government… not quite.

An “extra £160m” does not cancel £360m of previously announced cuts.

So whilst Ms Sturgeon, Mr Harvie and their colleagues are busy patting themselves on the back for implementing those terrific, progressive cuts it will be your council and your services which suffer.

The table below shows the changes to each council’s resource grant from the Scottish Government, the like-for-like change to council funding from the 2016/17 budget¹.

Every council is facing cuts.  The average fall in centrally provided resource funding across Scotland is 2.6%.

And before the inevitable objections, no, this is not in the face of Westminster cuts to Scotland’s block grant.  Departmental Expenditure Limits (DEL) available to the Scottish Government has increased this year – by 1.5% in real terms².

The Scottish Government, as is their right, have simply decided that they would rather spend the increased funding elsewhere.  They have, it seems, other priorities.  But whilst doing so, the First Minister has declared herself “delighted” to force a 2.1% real terms cut on her constituents’ council; “delighted” to force cuts on local services upon which her constituents rely; “delighted” that such cuts might result in job losses for her constituents.




¹ Data is taken from the Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee Agenda and meeting papers for 21st December 2016; and the Scottish Government’s news page ‘Budget boost for economy and public services’.  I have used the same deflator as the committee paper to transfer the cash figures into real terms.

Full workings shown below.

Note these are *resource budgets* only, i.e. the funds that are available for services.

² See the Scottish Parliament Information Centre report on the initial draft budget and latest brief or the draft budget itself (if you can work round the spin).  For help seeing the actual data without spin, see here, here and here from the always excellent chokkablog.

The Fraser of Allender Institute is suitably sceptical about where the “new money” (£190m without the tweak to the 40% tax band) is coming from: see here


  1. Chris Dickson says

    While I appreciate that in real terms there will still be cuts and the £160 million may not mitigate these, where are the actual cuts coming from? Not the Scottish Government but Westminster who continue with their austerity policies and cuts to Scotland’s block funding. The fact that Wastemonster have the audacity not to allow Scotland to spend the £60 billion it earns and limits us to the £37 billion Wastemonster chooses to send back to Holyrood is diabolical.
    In addition, how many cuts are the local councillors themselves experiencing from their inflated salaries and expenses. Many have other well paid jobs or big pensions. How about people who don’t have work or other incomes getting the opportunity to stand for election instead of the old boys network?
    There are also too many wasteful council projects where money could be better spent on frontline services like cancelled waste incineration plants etc.
    A much more complex problem than SNPBAD I suggest??

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