Fife Labour slams SNP government’s ‘bully boy’ tactics

Depute Fife Council leader Lesley Laird says the settlement for local authorities is "unacceptable".
Depute Fife Council leader Lesley Laird says the settlement for local authorities is "unacceptable".

Fife’s Labour administration has slammed the Scottish Government’s funding package for local authorities as “unacceptable” and has accused Finance Secretary John Swinney of bullying tactics.

Fife Council was one of 21 members of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to vote to reject the settlement on offer, with only the seven SNP-run councils in favour of accepting the deal.

Some councils had contemplated raising the council tax to offset some of their budget deficits, despite being aware that funding for maintaining the freeze - in Fife’s case, £4.6m - would be withheld.

However, it emerged that councils would also lose their share of £250m for integrated health and social care and £88m for maintaining teacher numbers, effectively making raising the council tax financially unviable.

Councillor Lesley Laird, Fife Council’s deputy leader, said: “The lack of meaningful dialogue on the local government settlement and the threatened package of sanctions for raising the council tax is simply unacceptable.

“This is coercion and bully boy tactics of the first order. At a time when the SNP are still haggling over the Scotland Bill, a Bill that would give them more powers and more control of the Scottish economy, it is somewhat ironic that they are stomping all over local authorities and removing any flexibility or local autonomy to meet local needs and is simply undermining local democracy.

“Fife Council will now once again have to consider the options available to best to balance the budget and protect frontline services to the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Councillor Altany Craik, who attended the COSLA leaders meeting on behalf of Fife Council, added: “It was obvious that the SNP had been whipped to accept the cuts as a good deal as every other council, including independent councils, refused to accept the settlement.

“This really is a sad for democracy and removes any pretence about local autonomy and parity of esteem.”

Councils were initially given until February 2 to accept the funding package on offer from the Scottish Government, but this was later changed to February 9.

However, councillors in Fife were not due to meet to agree the budget until next Thursday, February 11, and that meeting has now been put back a further two weeks to February 25.