Government urged to ‘immediately’ handover £155m to councils, including Shetland

The Scottish government is facing growing pressure to pass on a multimillion pound Covid-19 fund to local authorities, including the SIC.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) said councils were at the “vanguard” of protecting communities during the Covid-19 – and the £155 million of consequentials funding from Westminster should be passed on immediately.

Consequentials are additional funds passed on to devolved governments as part of the Barnett formula.

Without access to the money, councils have warned they may need to drain their reserves.

Last month, suggestions were raised that the SIC should look again at whether to use its own reserves – after Orkney Islands Council made £5 million available to businesses to help amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The SIC said at the time its priority was to work with central government  – and was waiting to hear how the consequentials funding would be passed on to councils.

But with no assurances on how much of the funding will be made available, COSLA has ramped up its calls on government.

Following a meeting of council leaders yesterday (Friday), COSLA’s resources spokeswoman Gail Macgregor said: “Council leaders were clear today that the reaction of council to the Covid-19 epidemic, ensuing essential services are secured and that our mist vulnerable people are protected has been a remarkable effort.

“As such the £155 million of consequentials should be passed to local government immediately.

“Councils are working hard to keep a huge range of essential services running to meet the needs of communities and to be responsive locally.

“But the bottom line is that protecting people and providing services costs money.”

The government’s finance secretary Kate Forbes, had also faced questions about whether councils would receive the funding during a debate on Thursday.

While Ms Forbes said the government was committed to deploying all additional funding in a way that helps councils and the Covid-19 response, she would not confirm that the full £155m would be passed on.

“Local authorities recognise and acknowledge the cost pressures that they face, but it is important for me, working in consultation and collaboration with COSLA, to understand what the full costs are,” she said,

“It is perfectly reasonable to operate on that basis.”

Ms Macgregor said she had written to the Scottish government about the £155 million more than two weeks ago – and she would continue to discuss the issues with Ms Forbes.

“Whilst we fully appreciate the pressure facing the cabinet at this time, councils are facing an extremely challenging situation on the ground, with significant additional costs being incurred on a daily basis, as well as massive losses of income as a result of the lock down.

“The response from Scottish government so far does nothing to alleviate the collective concerns of Scottish local government and we call on the consequentials to be passed to local government immediately.”


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