Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today accused the Scottish Government of “strong-arming Councils with threats of fines and penalties” to secure agreement to budget cuts.
As a result of a higher-than-expected reduction in the funding from the Scottish Government Orkney Islands Council will need to find savings of £1.4 million over the year ahead.
Following concern that Orkney Islands Council could run into difficulties in providing services as a result of the Scottish Government budget cuts, Orkney MSP today called into question the Scottish Government’s “strong-arming” of Councils
Speaking during General Questions today, Mr McArthur said:
“Yesterday the Finance Secretary delighted in telling the Chamber that every Council in Scotland had accepted his plan to remove £500m from the budgets of Councils across Scotland.
“Does the Minister not accept that this was only achieved by strong-arming Councils with threats of penalties and sanctions? Tactics that one senior councillor in Orkney described as “reprehensible…. Bully boy tactics”?
“Does he agree with the leader of Orkney Islands Council, Steven Heddle that “local government is a separate tier of democracy and should be afforded the respect to carry forward their own decision making”, rather than threatened with a fine of £1.7m?”
In response, the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, Marco Biagi, referred to settlement with Orkney Islands Council as “a very good deal.”
Following the exchanges, Liam McArthur MSP said:
“The Minister referred to the budget settlement with Orkney Islands Council as 'a very good deal'. It really is very difficult to understand how he arrived at that conclusion given that the Council is now faced with making £1.4 million worth of savings.
“Marco Biagi is a reasonable man but it is not reasonable to pretend that the budget cuts being imposed by the Scottish Government are anything other than bad news for local services.
“Considering that half of what local authorities do is education, it is not hard to see where the impact is likely to be felt. I believe the Scottish Government should be using the powers our parliament already has to invest in education, rather than insisting on £500m of cuts.”