INVERCLYDE Council’s leader is appealing to the area’s MSPs to block Scottish Government budget moves that would aversely affect the area.

Next Thursday the minority SNP government is due to reveal its budget for the coming year.

It will include details of the size of grant to be given to local authorities, including Inverclyde, and will have a major influence on council spending plans.

Councillor Stephen McCabe, who leads Labour controlled Inverclyde, will join other councillors and union campaigners from all over Scotland outside the Parliament to demonstrate against austerity.

He has now written to MSPs with an interest in Inverclyde, stating: “I ask that you pledge NOT to support any Scottish Government budget that imposes further austerity and financial pain on local communities.”

His letter has gone to Greenock and Inverclyde SNP MSP Stuart McMillan, as well as West of Scotland MSPs Ross Greer (Green), Jamie Green, Maurice Corry and Maurice Golden (Conservative) and Labour’s Mary Fee and Neil Bibby.

Mr McCabe said he wrote the letter because council services are at breaking point, and the Scottish Parliament must act now to reverse the “hugely damaging”austerity approach to local government finances.

He told the MSPs: “Recent reports from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Accounts Commission have confirmed that local authority funding from the Scottish Government has been cut significantly since 2010-11.

“Whatever way the Scottish Government chooses to dress it up, Scotland’s local authorities have far less money to spend on essential services now than they did six years ago, with the threat of more cuts to come.

“The Scottish Parliament has never before had so many economic levers to use to support our vital local services. You need to use the powers of the Parliament to protect the local services our citizens rely on every day. 

“You can show your support for our remarkable staff and our highly valued local services by pledging not to support a budget that inflicts more austerity, more cuts and more unnecessary pain on local communities.”

Mr McCabe added: “On budget day, you have a voice inside the chamber at Holyrood and, more importantly, a vote.

“On budget day I shall join fellow councillors and trade union activists from across Scotland to make our voices heard from outside the Parliament building on this vital issue. I hope you will be listening.”

Inverclyde has managed to save nearly £1.5 million in the last year — but still faces a potential £13 million funding gap over the next two years and the possibility of 126 full-time equivalent jobs being axed as well as savage cuts to services.

The council will hold a budget meeting on December 21, and a public consultation will take place in January before any cuts are finalised.

Scottish finance secretary Derek McKay’s constituency also includes Inverclyde. He met Mr McCabe recently to discuss Inverclyde’s financial position.

Cllr McCabe described the meeting as “very constructive”.
He said: “It was a useful opportunity for us to share information and exchange ideas.

“I impressed upon Mr Mackay the damaging consequences for local services, jobs and residents if we are forced to make cuts on the scale currently envisaged.”

The Scottish Government said Mr Mackay considered the meeting with Inverclyde Council to be “constructive and informative”.

A spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has treated local government very fairly, despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government.

“Councils will receive funding through the local government finance settlement of more than £10.4 billion for 2017-18.

“Taken together with a range of other measures, this amounts to £383m – or 3.7 per cent – in additional support for local authority services compared to 2016-17.

“Inverclyde Council’s potential share amounted to £4.8m, or 2.8 per cent, but, having decided to freeze their council tax levels in 2017-18, this reduced their available spending power by £1m.”