Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Strathkelvin and Bearsden Susan Murray has challenged Rona Mackay SNP MSP to look again if she thinks that East Dunbartonshire Council receives a fair funding settlement from the SNP Scottish Government.
Susan said: “People are not fooled by the funding ‘titbits’ she highlights which come to East Dunbartonshire Council in specific grants. For years, the Council’s budget has been squeezed and this has affected the services that can be delivered. The local Lib Dem joint administration has worked hard to avoid redundancies, but local Council jobs have gone.”
“Services have been scaled back to reduce delivery costs, with real impacts on our quality of life. Reversing this will need investment by the Scottish Government and our local MSP should be fighting for East Dunbartonshire, not defending the indefensible.”
Audit Scotland figures show that over the last six years revenue funding for councils went down by nearly 5p in every £1, while other Scottish Government revenue funding fell by less than 1p in every £1. This year East Dunbartonshire Council will have to use over £7 million of reserves to prevent further cutbacks in services.
When East Dunbartonshire Council passed its budget on 26th February, it was agreed that Council Tax and charges would be freezed.
Susan said: “At the Council budget meeting I called on the Leader of the SNP group to speak to our local MSPs and ask for increased funding for councils. He acknowledged that councils need more funding and replied that he had spoken to Rona Mackay MSP and Gil Paterson MSP about this. Clearly, they are not listening to their own councillors, or to COSLA who are calling for fair funding for councils.”
Joint Council Leader Vaughan Moody said: “We took the decision to freeze Council Tax and charges for two reasons. First, while the funding settlement from the Scottish Government has been particularly poor this year, topping this up locally with an increase in charges would be especially unfair at a time when many people have lost income due to the pandemic. Second, the Scottish Government gave us the money to avoid a 3% Council Tax rise on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. If we had raised Council Tax then our funding from the Scottish Government would simply have been reduced accordingly.”
Capital Budget Continues to Invest for the Future
Despite the challenges the Scottish Government's funding settlement has presented to the Revenue Budget for delivering day-to-day services, the Council has been able to maintain investment for the future in the Capital Budget.
Progress continues in building three new nurseries in Kirkintilloch, Bearsden and Milngavie; the new Boclair Acedemy; the new school for Additional Support Needs pupils in Waterside, Kirkintilloch; and a £30 million investment in development of the Westerhill area of Bishopbriggs.
The COVID-19 response has of course slowed down the delivery of some of the Council's investment programme, including the resurfacing of roads. When we come out of lockdown we will be able to bring things back up to speed.
The Administration has also agreed to a feasibility study into a new Lenzie Academy. However, the Scottish Government has reduced the Capital grant for most councils including East Dunbartonshire, and therefore there is a risk this will be delayed indefinitely.
Joint Council Leader Vaughan Moody said: “Two years ago the Scottish Government waxed lyrical about its £1 billion programme for investment in new schools. So far we have received no money for the excellent projects at Boclair and at Waterside. If no money is forthcoming for future schools then they may not happen.”