The Scottish Greens this morning (31 Jan) confirmed agreement has been reached with Scottish Ministers on a significant package of immediate budget changes and bold long-terms reforms to boost the funding of local council services such as schools and social care.
Ahead of tonight's Stage 1 vote on the Budget, Scottish Government Ministers are promising that in return for Green support they will amend their spending plans. Compared with the plans set out in the SNP’s budget in December, local councils will have access to a package worth over £200million to spend as they see fit.
Today’s deal will mean Highland Council will have a funding package worth up to an extra £8.6 million as a direct result of the Green deal.
When combined with existing local revenue powers, this will close the £237m gap in council funding, identified by the local government body COSLA.
Ministers have also agreed to a timescale for replacing the broken, unfair Council Tax system. This will be developed by a cross-party process starting before the summer, and legislation will be published before the end of this session of parliament. They have also committed to giving councils greater fundraising powers including the ability to charge a visitor levy, as is commonplace in other European cities and regions.
Council bosses had described the SNP Government's proposed budget for 2019-20 as bad news, putting at risk the delivery of essential services. Green MSPs have pressed hard for a fairer funding settlement along with a commitment to scrap the Tories' unfair and outdated Council Tax.
Highlands and Islands Green MSP John Finnie said:
"The public rely on local services such as schools and social care, and local facilities such as sports centres and libraries. Today's Green budget deal means that Highland Council now has an additional £8.6 million to protect these services and the jobs of front line workers.
"It's welcome that after consistent Green pressure the SNP Government has seen sense and committed to immediate action and longer-term reform.
"Scottish Greens will always be firm but constructive in these situations. Scrapping the Tories' Council Tax is a historic victory. All parties now have an opportunity to help bring about a fairer system of funding essential local services.
"On top of recent reforms to Income Tax, today's deal shows yet again Scottish Greens are leading the change, making Scotland the fairer country we know we can be."