ERC delays budget amid funding row

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East Renfrewshire Council leader Jim Fletcher has branded the Scottish Government’s controversial local funding settlement “fundamentally undemocratic”.

Councils across Scotland faced a deadline of February 9 to accept or reject the settlement offer — last month rejected by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) as ‘unacceptable’.

In a letter to deputy first minister John Swinney, the East Ren leader wrote: “The threat of severe financial sanctions on councils who do not accept your “offer” is fundamentally undemocratic.

“However, having spent some time reviewing the offer and having taken the advice of my Section 95 officer and chief executive, I believe I have no choice but to recommend to council that the offer should be accepted. I do so under duress.”

ERC has now delayed its budget for 2016/17 and 2017/18, blaming the impact the settlement will have on its financial projections.

Councillor Fletcher said: “The budget was due to be set on February 11, however in light of long term cuts to local authority funding and the impact of the recent poor grant settlement, extra time is needed to work through the detail and respond to the very signifcant financial challenge the council faces.”

Responding to COSLA’s concerns, John Swinney maintained that the deal is “worth taking.

“Our funding proposals deliver a strong but challenging financial settlement for local government, despite cuts to the central budget by the UK government.”

East Renfrewshire Council’s budget for 2016/17 and 2017/18 will now be set on Wednesday, March 9.