A Stornoway councillor has called on the local MSP to do more with the Scottish Government to secure extra finance for the Comhairle.
Stornoway South councillor, Charlie Nicolson, made the call during a debate at the Comhairle’s Policy and Resources committee on the council’s finances, and amid fears of further significant budgets cuts.
WHY ARE WE BEING TREATED LIKE THIS?
Claiming that the Comhairle had received the highest rate of budget cuts among Scottish local authorities, Cllr Nicolson said: “Why are we being treated like this? The Scottish Government have an underspend of £340m last year, why isn’t this being used to help local councils throughout Scotland?
“I ask the MSP to interject and get more finance for the council here. These cuts will be devastating for the islands.”
Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eiriosgaigh agus Uibhist a Deas councillor, Donald Manford, replied: “I am happy to take up the challenge of pursuing the points made when we understand that the austerity to which you refer is hammering us all. It has been in place for the last ten years and was supported by all of the Unionist parties.
“The reasoning behind the settlement is agreed with CoSLA, and my question is what has this council placed before CoSLA and why has CoSLA disregarded those points?”
Leader of the Comhairle’s SNP Group of councillors, Gordon Murray stated: I am happy that Charlie Nicolson has raised this point. Dr Allan has been consistently fighting against Westminster, and given that the UK is the fifth biggest economy, it is an absolute disgrace what is happening.”
POPULATION COULD MEAN ISLANDS’ SHARE HAS FALLEN
The Comhairle’s finance chief, Robert Emmott, confirmed that: “CoSLA agrees the distribution of funding amongst itself, and there are policy choices, especially investment in early years education and the national share of population that are the biggest drivers in the distribution process. Based on that, this means that our share has fallen further. Other councils, where the population is growing, might argue that they need the funds for the extra population.”
Comhaire Leader, Councillor Roddie MacKay added: “The CoSLA distribution formula is old hat, and the answer to this is through the Scottish Government, and by us using the new tools available to us via the Islands Act, and I hope the MSP will continue to press for this.”
MSP HAPPY TO TAKE UP THE CONCERNS
A local SNP spokesperson replying to a request for a response from Dr Allan, said: “It is not clear whether the committee members in question raised their concerns with CoSLA during that process on behalf of the Comhairle. However, it is very clear that the Tory Government in Westminster has cut the budget which Scotland has to spend on all public services.
“Alasdair Allan would encourage the councillors who are quoted to contact him about this, as he raises issues of public services regularly and is always happy to take up local concerns.”