Fife SNP accuses Labour of budget ‘scaremongering’

Cllr David Alexander says the budget crisis is down to the Tories at Westminster and Labour in Fife.
Cllr David Alexander says the budget crisis is down to the Tories at Westminster and Labour in Fife.

Fife’s SNP group has dismissed as “ridiculous” suggestions that Scottish Government funding cuts have created the council’s financial crisis.

Councillor David Alexander says the biggest threats to Fife Council’s financial survival are the actions of the Conservative government at Westminster and the actions of Labour administrations in Fife, both past and present.

Cllr Alexander said: “Labour leader David Ross has written to staff, the third sector and the newspapers about what he says are cuts of £17 million from the Scottish Government budget settlement.

“He has said the settlement was late, which is true, but has yet to state the reason for the lateness and the additional cuts.

“That delay was because of the Spending Review undertaken by Chancellor George Osborne in November - everything was delayed because of that.

“It appears, according to Labour, this £17m cut is going to make life impossible for Fife Council.”

Accusing Labour of “scaremongering”, Cllr Alexander cited a report to this week’s executive committee which he said showed the council had managed to gather sufficient resources in the current financial year to pay over £50m of historic pay claims.

He pointed out that would have been enough to wipe out the budget ‘black hole’ of £53m in the third year of Labour’s draft budget.

Cllr Alexander added: “The equal pay claims have nothing to do with the Scottish Government. They are a throwback to the creation of Fife Council.

“The structures and policies created at the time succeeded in putting Fife Council on the wrong side of the Equal Pay Act. Directly involved in the creation of Fife Council were the Labour party.”

He also criticised Labour councillors who he said were claiming the Scottish Government was cutting the council’s budget by £38m in 2016/17.

“That is not true,” he said. “Labour had an apparent starting budget gap of £21m. They have added the additional £17m from the settlement to come to £38m.

“But the original Fife budget gap has nothing to do with the settlement. Of the £21m, £10m is due to Westminster ending contracting out of national insurance contributions. That has to be made up but it has nothing to do with the Scottish Government.

“Of the remaining £11 million, a review of the 16/17 budget revealed expenditure had been overstated and income understated income of £10 million.

“When I brought the existence of this £10m to the attention of the public at the last full council meeting, Labour attempted to close me down.

“There is no £38 million cut from the Scottish Government. There is a “real” starting gap of £28n, of which £10m is due to Westminster for the national insurance change and the £17m to the late budget settlement.

“And as already stated, the £50m plus for equal pay would have dealt with this and more.

“Finally, what Labour is also not mentioning is the £29.5m increase to the NHS budget for Fife. It now stands at £604m.

“This is the first year of the integration of health and social care. Fife Council will be able to access £16.8m of this money.

“If it wasn’t for the actions of Westminster and Labour administrations, this could have been a reasonably good settlement for Fife.”