THE Accounts Commission has confirmed that Scottish councils faced a £585 million funding gap in 2024/25 which is estimated to increase to £780 million by 2026/27.

The horrendous underfunding by the Scottish Government means ever-tougher decisions to ensure councils like West Dunbartonshire remain financially sustainable. We are forced to raise more funding locally, to make savings, to create reserves, and to deliver a balanced budget.

The Scottish Government funding does not fully fund their Council Tax freeze policy and this results in more cuts to council services than were necessary.

Instead of investing in local government and allowing councils to increase Council Tax this year, the Scottish Government implemented a Council Tax Freeze resulting in £147 million a year being lost to council services.

In addition, preventing us from using our main revenue-raising tool means further austerity is locked into our budget for future years. We need a fair funding settlement from the Scottish Government if we want to protect public services, jobs and our communities from the social harm that the SNP are inflicting on councils and communities across Scotland.

Scottish councils have a legal duty to set a balanced budget each year which means our funding and income must cover the anticipated spending. The decisions we took in December reduced the budget gap from £16.970m down to £9.313m. We also applied £5.332m of reserves which we created and committed another £5.332m a year for the subsequent three years up to 2027/28. The budget gap reduced further between December and March £8.336m.

At the budget setting in March, the Labour Budget included savings which meant that we reduced the forecast budget gap for 2025 down to £9.760m. However, the SNP proposed a bankruptcy budget which stripped bare our reserves, including the cost of living funding which would have reversed our commitments to support our communities through the cost of living crisis.

The SNP proposals would have undermined our resilience, and worst of all it would actually have increased our budget gap next year by a further £4.897m with no feasible way to balance the books in 2025. To quote a former SNP leader, this was an "act of unpardonable folly” and would have set the council speeding towards certain bankruptcy.

The SNP's reckless approach to the budget would have heralded more misery for service users, our communities, and our staff. Instead of having the humility and courage to acknowledge these facts, they simply turned a blind eye to the social harm inherent in their bankruptcy budget. They are trying to sell their financial irresponsibility as a virtue but local residents won’t be fooled by the SNP, as everybody knows that if your bills are more than your income then you need to reprioritise your spend and look for ways to reduce your spending and increase your income.