14 February 2009

The SNP Government has been criticised for leaving Highland council with an "impossible choice" in determining their budget and in having to make cuts to vital services to balance the books.

Following the announcement of the new council budget, Peter Peacock, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands said,

"Highland Council have been left with an impossible choice on budget cuts because of the policies of the SNP government and because of their predecessors in the first Council administration signing up to a duff deal on council funding.

"You have an impossible choice when the government tells you to make cuts or lose some of your already limited grant.

"The reduced grant would cause you to have to make further cuts and raise the Council tax to balance the books.

"The government have manipulated the grant system to reward councils for making massive spending cuts and penalise them if they don't.

"It is a form of micro management of Council budgets we have not seen since the Thatcher era.

"I don't like the cuts the Council is having to make but, unlike their SNP predecessors who pretended they were not making cuts, they are at least being honest about it and making it clear it is the SNP government's grant arrangements which is driving their actions.

"Despite having the biggest budget in Scottish history and almost twice as much as that Donald Dewar had only ten short years ago, the SNP government are short-changing the Council and not giving them enough to meet the pledges made before the election on, for example teacher numbers and class sizes.

"The Scottish Government say they have given the Councils enough money under the concordat the previous council signed, but if that was the case, why is the Council being forced to reduce teacher numbers, when the concordat promised retaining teacher numbers and cutting class sizes.

"If the Council had the cash, they would be spending it on education, not cutting education.

"It is sad to see all the progress made over the years leading up to 2007 in employing record numbers of teachers and building new schools being put into reverse by the SNP Government's actions and policy failures.

"At least the new Council administration is being absolutely up front and honest about where the blame lies and how their hands have been tied.

"We will be making representations on detailed budget matters that constituents have brought to our attention and we will continue to campaign to have the Scottish Government implement their budget promises on education and a range of other issues."


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