FIFE COUNCIL co-leader David Ross has accused finance minister Derek Mackay of “using smoke and mirrors” to hide the extent of the cut in local government funding.

The Labour councillor said they were now facing a cut of almost £10 million which he claimed could result in hundreds of job losses.

“Fife’s budget settlement from the Scottish Government is significantly worse than we were planning for,” he said.

“Instead of the £6m cut in our core grant we expected, we are now looking at a cut of almost £10m. This is before we factor in cost increases for inflation and increased demands on services.

“Claims by the SNP Government that councils are being treated fairly are completely false and verging on the dishonest.

"Although there is additional funding, this is ring-fenced for new activities councils are expected to carry out at the direction of the Scottish Government, such as funding for the increase in early years and childcare.

"Once this is all stripped out, there is a significant cut in the core funding councils need to run their basic local services.”

Cllr Ross said consequences of the shortfall were likely to include further cuts to school budgets, roads maintenance, environmental and housing services.

He fears cuts in funding to voluntary sector organisations who provide much-needed local services on behalf of the local authority and the reduction of support staff in areas such as finance and HR.

“This could mean a loss of as many as 200 jobs,” he added.

“There is some speculation that Derek Mackay, the SNP Cabinet Secretary for Finance, is holding back money to negotiate with opposition parties in the Parliament in order to get his budget through.

"Whilst all local authorities would welcome a less severe cut in funding, if this is true, then it is cynical in the extreme, putting unneeded extra stress on council staff and services that are having to divert their efforts into identifying where the required cuts can be made, instead of concentrating on service delivery.

“This is no way to run public finance. Councils need long-term certainty and sustainability in their funding and the SNP Government should realise this before vital local services collapse around their ears.” 

Fellow co-leader and SNP councillor, David Alexander, said council tax was set to be increased by three per cent.

“Overall, in terms of Scottish Government grant, the figure for 2019/20 is a reduction of around £3million from 2018/19,” he said. “However, within these numbers, we have ring-fenced funding for specific projects which will bring benefits to Fife but also budgets that aren’t protected. 

“The Scottish Government received a real-terms reduction in grant from Westminster when health consequentials are deducted. Over and above that grant reduction is the impact of inflation. The main reason for Fife’s budget reductions will be unfunded inflation but there are other burdens. 

“We anticipate we will require to find savings in our core budgets of £11 million but the additional ring-fenced cash shouldn’t be ignored. Some of the savings will be efficiency savings but we are still going through that process.

“At the moment, this is based on a draft budget. It has to be said, political parties sitting on the sidelines criticising this budget and at the same time not involving themselves in the process of discussing and negotiating their own plans with the minority Scottish Government are displaying epic hypocrisy. 

“They should get involved or say nothing.”

Public finance minister Kate Forbes said: “The Scottish Government guarantees funding to local authorities which includes the General Revenue Grant and Non Domestic Rate Income. 

“Angus, Dundee City, Fife, and Perth and Kinross councils will all receive increased funding compared with 2018-19.

“We continue to ensure that our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement despite further cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government.”

The Scottish Government said Fife Council would receive more than £700m to fund local services in 2019-20 and that, using their council tax powers could also generate an additional £5.2m to support the delivery of essential local services, meaning an extra £17.6m next year.