INVERCLYDE Council is to receive an extra £2m of Scottish Government funding — and it could offset swingeing cuts to services.

The local authority’s block grant for the next financial year will increase from just over £167m to more than £169m for 2015/16 after the allocation was formally agreed in the Scottish Parliament.

Municipal Buildings bosses have already included the additional cash in their budget for the coming year but council leader Stephen McCabe says the Scottish Government now has the chance to help thwart planned cutbacks by maintaining the increase for the next two years.

The extra funding has been made available to maintain the council tax freeze for another year, keep teacher numbers at 2014/15 levels, mitigate the ‘bedroom tax’ and provide free school meals for children in P1-3.

Councillor McCabe argues that the real reason for the increase is to compensate for a funding shortfall in previous years which was caused by a miscalculation of Inverclyde’s population.

But he says the government now has the chance to stop cuts to services and prevent job losses over the next two years to balance the books.

Mr McCabe told the Tele: “The main reason that we received an increase in our funding for 2015/16 over 2014/15 was because the government had understated our population in previous years, which meant that we received less grant than we should have.

“We have also received additional funding for the items mentioned but of course we have the additional costs associated with these too.

“The challenge for the council is not 2015/16 — we have budgeted for a surplus of £2.6m in that year — but for 2016/17 and beyond.

“Our budget for 2016/17 is currently in deficit to the tune of £3.3m although we have agreed the temporary use of reserves to balance it.

“The deficit in 2016/17 assumes that the Scottish Government will cut our funding by £2.6m in that year, although we have received no official confirmation of this.

“We are unlikely to know our actual funding for 2016/17 until December this year.

“If the government was to give us the same level of funding in 2016/17 as in 2015/16 that would reduce our budget deficit to £0.7m and would mean that the level of savings we would require to make would be of that order, which is obviously significantly less than £3.3m and much more manageable.” Local SNP MSP Stuart McMillan today welcomed the additional £2m for the area and said the government will continue to work with local authorities to ‘protect’ public services.

He said: “This latest funding boost from the Scottish Government will be welcomed by people across Inverclyde and is another example of the SNP’s commitment to investment in our vital public services.

“The SNP in government is providing a fair deal for local government and is delivering on key policies benefiting local people — from the council tax freeze which is protecting family budgets during tough economic times to free school meals to give our youngest pupils the best possible start in life.

“This funding will also see the number of teachers in Inverclyde maintained at current levels — and will keep people in Inverclyde protected against the imposition of Westminster’s ‘bedroom tax’.

“The SNP Scottish Government is continuing to work alongside partners in local government to deliver the best possible deal for people in Scotland — and to protect our public services as much as possible from the austerity agenda being imposed by Westminster.”