Exhausted Councillors May Quit to Let Scots Gov Handle Budget Cuts

Councillors worn out by constant budget trimming could throw in the towel, leaving the Scottish Government to tackle the tough financial decisions, a leading council figure has cautioned.

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Stephen McCabe, at the helm of Labour’s team in Inverclyde Council, has pointed to a looming monetary crisis hitting councils hard, a situation worsened by continuous cuts in real terms to their funding.

He’s openly criticized Humza Yousaf for enforcing a council tax standby while public services hang by a thread.

McCabe’s hunch that some councillors might just reject further austerity measures is stirring up anxiety in Holyrood.

Scottish councils must legally maintain a balanced ledger annually, and spiraling into debt is not an option.

Yet, recently, a few English councils have resorted to a Section 114 notice, a grim acknowledgment that they can’t fulfill their fiscal duties.

This move often leads to the installation of government commissioners who then make sweeping cuts, barring essential services like education.

The saga of Liverpool City Council’s clash with Thatcher’s government in the ’80s under Derek Hatton’s defiance over budget cuts echoes these concerns.

McCabe voiced: “Despite our legal obligation to balance the budget, I foresee a time when many of us won’t stomach the deep cuts needed for it.

“We might just let the Scottish Government bring in their commissioners to handle their dirty work.

“The predicament is dire, but it seems Holyrood won’t face it.

“Their eyes are fixed on the upcoming UK election and pushing through the First Minister’s ill-advised Council Tax freeze.

“This freeze doesn’t actually aid those struggling financially since they’re either exempt or qualify for a scheme that shields them from council tax hikes.

“Those same families are hit hardest when we have to slash services they rely on.”

Previously, McCabe ruffled feathers by asking a Tory Minister to undermine the SNP’s council tax hold by directly funding councils.

This request to Michael Gove came as the SNP tied Westminster’s funding to the tax freeze agreement.

Responding, a Scottish Government spokesperson stated it lacks the authority to deploy commissioners to councils, a power reserved for the UK Government in England.

They continued: “We’re fully aware of the financial strains on councils, which is why next year’s budget earmarks a historic £14 billion for local governance.

“We’ve given a real terms boost in revenue funding for the past two years, a fact confirmed by the Accounts Commission.

“Future local government financial plans will emerge from our talks with COSLA and will be detailed in subsequent Scottish Budgets.

“Any talk of potential future budget cuts is purely conjecture at this point.”

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