A north-east MSP has urged the Scottish Government’s finance chief to support fairer funding for councils following claims some authorities would be left out of pocket by the distribution of coronavirus cash.
Regional Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald urged Kate Forbes to base the distribution of additional funding on the actual costs to councils of coronavirus, rather than using a funding formula suggested by local government body Cosla.
Mr Macdonald claimed the formula would see some local authorities make money from the crisis while some – including Aberdeen City Council – would be short-changed.
City leaders say the cost of the ongoing pandemic to the city could be as high as £113 million in lost income and extra expenditure. But under the formula put forward by Cosla, the council would receive only £5.4 million of a £155 million additional funding pot.
Mr Macdonald has now written to the finance secretary urging her to allocate any further funds based on the actual cost of the pandemic to individual councils.
He said: “I was pleased when Kate Forbes told MSPs last month that she wanted to base financial support for councils on the lost income and extra costs they faced because of Covid-19, but disappointed when she chose not to do so.
“Kate Forbes herself told the Scottish Parliament that ‘it is for Cosla to inform and influence,’ but that ‘it is within the job description of the cabinet secretary for finance to deliver a balanced budget and to allocate funding’.
“Despite that, she has chosen to let Cosla make the decision, regardless of whether or not it strikes a fair balance between the costs to councils and the compensation they receive from ministers.
“I have written to her to ask her if she will do the same again next time, or actually take the decision herself.
“I have also asked her to publish whatever information she has about the costs of the Covid epidemic to individual councils, and to reveal how much councils like Aberdeen City and Highland have lost out.”
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Jenny Laing insisted the local authority would need additional funding to deal with the impact of coronavirus.
She said: “Lewis MacDonald has rightly identified that Aberdeen City Council requires more money from the Scottish Government to see it through this Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Scottish Government often wax lyrical about working in partnership with councils however this partnership is becoming increasingly one sided.
“If Kate Forbes is truly committed to working with local government to ensure vital public services are maintained then she needs to put her money where her mouth is and ensure that councils are fully compensated for the lost income and extra costs they have incurred as a result of the coronavirus.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have been working closely with Cosla and local governments since the beginning of the pandemic and have committed over £300 million of additional funding for Covid-19 measures, on top of the local government finance settlement of £11.4 billion from this year’s budget.
“The payments of the local government consequentials worth £155 million, the distribution of which was proposed and agreed by Cosla, are being made to councils in June alongside the weekly general revenue grant payments.
“The first instalment was received last week.
“In addition, following agreement with Cosla, we are also front loading the normal weekly grant payments by £300 million to ease local authorities cash flow problems.”
Cosla declined to comment.