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SCOTTISH LOCAL GOVERNMENT MINISTER RESPONDS TO COSLA CONCERNS

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Scottish local government minister Calum MacDonald has described the spending pressures on local authorities as 've...
Scottish local government minister Calum MacDonald has described the spending pressures on local authorities as 'very real' but has given no guarantee the 1999-2000 settlement would take account of councils financing wage rises, reports The Scotsman (p7).

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities want the government to alter the funding system to recognise that councils have had to find about£100m a year through efficiency measures to finance pay rises.

Speaking after a meeting with Cosla yesterday, Mr MacDonald said: 'We do take the point on board and we acknowledge that pay pressures are something local government has to cope with.

'What we would like to do is move to a new system whereby we can have a more open and transparent analysis of pay pressures and the type of efficiency savings that will always be necessary every year within local government.'

Meanwhile, the Scottish National party has accused Labour of having a 'Mystic Meg' approach to consultations after the Scottish Office mistakenly released a press statement from MacDonald hours before the meeting took place in which he described the discussions as constructive and open.

Mike Russell, the SNP chief executive, said: 'Labour's Mystic Meg approach, putting out statements before the meeting took place, shows how little they listen to anyone. I suppose it was an expectation of hope in a desperate attempt to get the first spin on the story, but the minister's clumsy effort has been caught out.'

A Scottish Office spokesman said: 'A draft news release was issued in error and we apologise, but the important thing was the minister was in listening mode, and was there to hear Cosla's concerns.'

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