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Scottish councils agree budget conditions

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All the Scottish councils have now agreed in principle to meet conditions attached to the Scottish government’s draft budget for next year.

Thirty-one of the 32 local authorities confirmed by close of business hours on the deadline day that they accepted the deal agreed between council umbrella group Cosla and ministers.

West Dunbartonshire Council was the last council to announce its decision when it agreed in principle to meet conditions following a special full-council meeting.

Local authorities were told in November they faced deeper cuts unless they agreed to a package of measures to extend the council-tax freeze for another year and continue to help maintain police officer numbers.

Finance secretary John Swinney (SNP) said that by agreeing to these measures, as well as pledges to protect the number of teacher posts, councils would be hit with an average 2.6% cut.Failure to agree would result in a 6.4% reduction, he warned.

Councils signed up to the deal, but some, including Glasgow and Inverclyde councils, criticised the government’s approach.

In a letter to Mr Swinney, Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe said he would have to impose a council tax rise of 22% to make up the difference in funding.

The Labour councillor told him: “In fact, I would go so far as to say that your government’s actions are an affront to democracy. It was a bad day for local government when the political leadership of Cosla simply chose to note this part of the deal.”

Mr Swinney said: “Acceptance of the agreement is the best possible outcome for Scottish communities as we deal with the biggest reduction in public spending imposed on Scotland by any UK government.

“As well as delivering a further council-tax freeze, this agreement will maintain 1,000 more police officers than were in post before this government came to office. It will secure the delivery of outcomes for Curriculum for Excellence and maintain pupil-teacher ratios to improve education for our children and young people. It will protect the number of teacher posts as far as possible and provide resources for a social care fund.

“This restricts local government’s average funding reduction to 2.6% - a greater degree of protection than other parts of the Scottish budget, and superior to that for local government in England.

“The alternative would have been not to maintain delivery of key commitments to improve vital public services, from which the people of Scotland would undoubtedly have suffered.”

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