Flood Funding or Face Cuts in Services
The Scottish Government must guarantee funding of up to 100% for flood alleviation schemes in the Highland and Islands to avoid local council cuts in services.
This is the commitment Highlands and Islands regional Labour MSP Peter Peacock demanded from Environment Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead for at a debate on managing the risks of flooding at Holyrood this morning.
He said that retaining existing government support of 80% while restricting local authority’s council tax raising abilities would mean that money for flood works would have to come from reduced spending on schools, local roads and social work.
"I will not support putting undue burdens on the people of the Highlands and Islands and local authority spending, because of changes the minority government are making to local taxation." said Mr Peacock.
Mr Peacock cited the case in Moray where the bill for their various flood schemes comes close to £140m.
He said that even under the most prudent financial measures the Moray Council would face a 3.5% increase in their Council Tax which may last for 25 years to fund their share of the projects.
"All avenues for funding the scheme are now being blocked by this minority government with their tax plan changes.
"That potentially means the schemes can not proceed, or will have to be funded by millions of pounds of cuts in other services.
"This is a ridiculous position to put the people of Moray in."
He said that the only solution was for the Government to guarantee to fund the flood alleviation schemes in Moray 100% - a commitment the Minister singularly failed to give.
Mr Peacock said that he welcomed the discussions which took place at Holyrood today examining issues including the role of climate change in the debate, the length of time it takes to put flood schemes in place, the effects on our emergency services of flooding, the support required by Island Authorities in dealing with coastal erosion and a call generally for more sustainable measures to prevent flooding.
"We in the Highlands have seen these effects in Dingwall, in Inverness, in Elgin, Forres and Rothes, in East Sutherland, in Caol, Fort William and Acharacle in the West, and in Kirkwall and the North Isles," said Mr Peacock.
He added: "Flooding in Scotland is changing constantly and requires urgent attention, but the SNP needs to consider its own policy of handcuffing local authorities if this is going to happen."
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