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Local Authority Finance

Volume 494: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2009

4. What assessment he has made of the effect on the budgets of local authorities in Scotland of recent changes to Government funding allocations. (279147)

Local councils, including my own, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, are going to face real cuts through the Westminster cut in Scotland’s budget. I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman will campaign on this next year if he finds himself in opposition, but will he use his remaining time in government to do the right thing by protecting Scotland’s front-line services and funding? Will he stand up to the Treasury, or are we going to hear more excuses?

As I said at this Dispatch Box just 10 minutes ago, the Scottish Government’s budget has doubled over the past decade because of Labour investment; and, even despite the efficiencies that are to take place, it will increase again next year. The hon. Gentleman talks about choices. In the next few months, Scotland will face a clear choice between a Labour Government and the Conservative party. No one in Scotland believes that that rump over there is going to end up governing the United Kingdom. The fact is that the Scottish National party wants to see, and is determined to see, a Conservative Government returned to Westminster, because that suits its narrow political purposes.

Mr. Speaker, may I join those who pay tribute to you in saying that I am extremely grateful for your many acts of kindness to me, which began when I made my maiden speech from the back row of the Opposition Benches?

Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State confirm that allocations to local authorities will still be made by the devolved Executive in Holyrood, and that they remain twice the amount that they were 10 years ago, and very much more than when I was president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities?

My right hon. Friend has enormous experience from when he was president of COSLA. The fact is that, as I have alluded to and as he said, the Scottish Government’s budget continues to increase. We do, of course, look for additional ways to support local government, and tomorrow I will be hosting a job summit about how to support Scotland’s long-term unemployed through this recession. Local authorities have an enormous role to play in that in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom.