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Cosla seeks meeting with First Minister amid funding row

The First Minister and Cosla president signed the Verity House Agreement last year | Alamy

Cosla seeks meeting with First Minister amid funding row

Cosla is seeking a meeting with First Minister Humza Yousaf amid rising tensions over council finances.

The Scottish Government’s budget, currently undergoing parliamentary scrutiny, allocates £12.5bn to local government for 2024/25.

But the council umbrella group previously estimated it would require £14.4bn just to “stand still”.

And it warned there will be “cuts in every community in Scotland,” as well as job losses across local government, if the budget passed as it stands.

In a letter sent to ministers this month, council leaders said they were in a “fundamental position of dispute” with the Scottish Government.

The funding of local government has long been a sticking point during the budget process. That led to the creation of the Verity House Agreement which committed to creating a new fiscal framework.

But less than four months after that deal was signed, Yousaf announced a council tax freeze at the SNP’s autumn conference.

Cosla convened an emergency meeting following this announcement and a statement issued afterwards expressed “real anger” at the government’s handling of it. Leaders added that councils had not agreed to freeze the tax, warning that it had “no impact” on the poorest households but would lead to service cuts.

Finance secretary Shona Robison confirmed during the budget that councils would receive an additional £147m if they did not increase council tax bills.

In a statement last week, Cosla resources spokesperson councillor Katie Hagman said the freeze should be “voluntary” and councils should have the “flexibility to raise council tax by up to 5 per cent”. “There should also be no penalty or reduction in funding in line with the principles of the Verity House Agreement,” she added.

The Scottish Government had so far rejected this call, with Robison saying that councils who did not freeze it would not receive the extra cash.

She added: “We will continue to discuss with Cosla where there are areas of further compromise, but it has to be reasonable and it has to be fair to the rest of the public sector.”

The Budget Bill passed its first parliamentary hurdle last week. It is set to be agreed by MSPs by the end of the month.

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