Glaswegians will face no increases to their council tax next year if the SNP win the Holyrood election after the Labour controlled council finally accepted the funding package offered by the Scottish government.
The leader of Scotland’s largest local authority Gordon Matheson wrote to the Finance Secretary John Swinney accepting the terms this weekend.
The deal sees Scotland’s councils offered a package that ensures reductions to local authority spending will be limited to 2.6%, which is less than the Scottish budget is being cut by London. In return each local authority must ensure that police and teacher numbers are prioritised, free personal care is protected and that constituents face no increases in council taxes.
Mr Matheson has recently made several high profile attacks on the SNP government insisting that council taxes should be allowed to increase, a move backed by Labour’s Holyrood leader Iain Gray. The Labour controlled local authority has also refused to comply with the Scottish government’s class-size targets and instead concentrated on nursery provision, a move that had an impact on teacher numbers. Labour controlled authorities are responsible for two thirds of the drop in teacher employment in Scotland.
However the SNP insist that a freeze on council tax is vital given the hardship many hard working families are currently experiencing and that teacher and police recruitment remains a critical local authority provision. Finance Secretary John Swinney claimed that the agreement would provide Scotland’s local authorities with a greater level of protection than other areas of the public sector.
Mr Swinney said: “In return for the Scottish government maintaining local government’s budget share, councils will deliver on vital objectives such as the council tax freeze, maintaining record police numbers, and the protection of free personal care.
“Labour may not like these policies – but the Scottish government, and overwhelmingly the people of Scotland, do.”
The acceptance by Mr Matheson will be seen as a climbdown for the Labour council leader who recently described the SNP package as a “dagger through the heart of the city” and claimed the SNP “cares nothing for Glasgow” and that the party had “contempt” for Glaswegians.
However the SNP pointed out that the funding distribution formula had been in place under the previous Labour government and that under the SNP government Glasgow receives more funding than any other mainland local authority in Scotland – 23% more per head than the Scottish average.
The acceptance by Glasgow council will be welcomed by the Scottish government after recent media reports suggested that hopes of an agreement were unravelling. Last month CoSLA’s Labour bloc boycotted a meeting with senior government ministers aimed at discussing funding, leader Jim McCabe, who is also leader of Labour run North Lanarkshire council, claimed that the “concordat” between local and national government was “in the bin”.
Next years Scottish grant from Westminster is to be cut by £1.3 billion as the UK deals with the huge deficit left behind by the last Labour government.