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REPORT EXPOSES UNDERFUNDING OF COUNCILS

A report from the Accounts Commission on how council’s charge for local services exposes the extent to which local councils are underfunded by the Government, according to the Labour Group Finance Spokesperson on Dumfries and Galloway Council.

The report published today (31 October). ‘Charging for services: are you getting it right?’ highlights the extent to which charges for services across Scotland vary from council to council but also the fact that charges have increased in recent years in order to balance the books.

In 2003, on average councils, raised 40 per cent of what they raise in council tax through charges, but that figure is now 57 per cent.

Councillor Colin Smyth said, “The report confirms what most people know, namely that councils are chronically underfunded and as a result they have increased charges to balance the books. In many ways it shows that the council tax freeze is a bit of a con because it hasn’t been funded properly by the Scottish Government. If the council tax freeze had been properly funded, then councils wouldn’t have needed to claw back some of the lost income by increasing charges for other things. What is so frightening is that even with higher charges, Dumfries and Galloway Council still faces the prospect of finding £36 million of cuts over the next three years.”

“This report from the Accounts Commission is actually very timely because it backs up the approach the new Labour SNP administration is taken when it comes to charges in our forthcoming budget. The council needs to be open and frank with the public about what they charge for, and just as importantly explain why a charge is set at a certain level.  That is what we will do in our budget. That is a real contrast to the approach of the previous Tory led administration which tried to bring in charges for ARCs and blue badges for the disabled by the backdoor and never ever explained to the public how they calculate charges.”

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