D&G Council Leader to write to Depute First Minister on Finance Settlement

At yesterdays meeting of Policy and Resources committee (14 January), Members of the Committee agreed that the Leader write a letter to John Swinney seeking much needed clarification on the conditions of financial settlement contained in his letter of 16 December 2015.

The Leader outlined the level of savings required by the Council.

The Scottish Government wrote to councils on 16 December with details of the settlement as well as outlining the requirements attached to the deal. Council Leaders were asked to make it clear by the 22 January whether we accept the terms of the financial settlement for our council.

All members of the committee agreed that the Leader responds to the Deputy First Minister’s letter of 16 December, highlighting some key areas that the Council requires much more information on before any decision about accepting the Finance Settlement can be made. The committee agreed that these should be:
• Confirming that until there is clarity on a number of matters, currently being discussed with COSLA, we are not in a position to respond to the offer contained in his letter
• Expressing serious concern at the unacceptable level of resources being offered to this Council considering the commitments we are required to achieve
• Seeking clarity on the requirements for use of the £250million allocated for health and social care and indicate that without that information, we cannot properly consider these resources in our budget;
• Highlight that conditions on the offer on maintaining teacher numbers are far from clear and requesting more detailed information on these matters to assess the impact on remaining budgets and services.
Speaking at the committee, Council Leader Ronnie Nicholson said;

“We have confirmation that the settlement will see our resources reduced by 4.5%, bringing our savings in the next financial year to over £21 million. This means that we are now in the position of having to identify £13 million of cuts over and above those savings we have already agreed. The scale of this and the impact on our region cannot be underestimated.

There remains huge uncertainty as to the specific requirements of the Finance Settlement from the Scottish Government and what it actually means for our Council. The requirement in relation to the use of the annual £250 million funding allocated to health and social care integration, and our local share of £7.6 million, have also still to be clarified. To date we have not seen the detail of what this requirement actually means when it comes to how much we have to allocate to Health and Social Care.

Likewise the conditions in the offer on maintaining teacher numbers are far from clear as they effectively refer to a national freeze, with no information confirming otherwise if this means that individual council have to maintain their numbers at last year’s level.

Members agreed today that until clarity on teacher numbers and the use of the £250m for health and social care is received, and until Councils have had time to complete a balanced budgets, our Council cannot determine whether it can agree to the requirements set. I will be now be writing to the Deputy First Minister on this basis.”

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