Argyll and Bute Council has reacted with disbelief to news from the Scottish Government that it will face a 4.94% reduction in its funding – almost double the average reduction across the rest of Scotland.
The council will receive a grant of £220.059 million in 2011-12, compared with £231.488 million received in 2010-11 – a drop of £11.429 million.
Across Scotland the average reduction is 2.59%. Argyll and Bute Council’s decrease is £5.434m more than if it had received the average cut.
Dick Walsh, leader of the council, has asked the Scottish Government to explain why residents of Argyll and Bute are expected to shoulder more than their fair share of government cuts.
“It is clear that these figures are much worse than forecast. The council is facing the biggest reduction of any council in Scotland. The reduction of 4.94% is almost double that of the average.
There are still issues we are seeking clarification on as we do not understand why we are being penalised with such a big reduction in funding.”
The council had been accused of planning for too-bleak a future through its own budget processes. Councillor Walsh believes this prudent approach is now justified.
“It is disappointing that Ministers and MSPs have publicly stated that the council's settlement was much better than had been expected and then be party to a cut in our funding that is double that of the average.”
Councillor Walsh is also concerned that the cuts will impact on important front line council services.
“That the cuts stem from changes in SINA (Special Islands Needs Allowances) and the ‘supporting people’ allocation, suggest a complete disregard for our most vulnerable communities and vulnerable citizens by the Scottish Government.”
The council is now discussing the implications of the settlement with COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) and with the Scottish Government, to understand if the variation from the average is correct and if not, to have it put right.
If they are correct the implications of this one-year budget will impact Argyll and Bute for many years.
Councillor Walsh continued:
“It is disappointing the settlement is for one year only as that makes delivering a sustainable medium term budget that protects services difficult to achieve. However that we now start from a funding base over £5m lower than expected will make this a near impossible task. It’s not just £5m less for next year it means we start 2012-13 and 2013-14 from a base that is £5m lower.”
When combined with cost and demand pressures and rising inflation the actual budget reduction faced by the council is between £15 million and £16 million.