Local government Covid-19 black hole grows to £150m

The black hole faced by councils across Scotland fighting coronavirus has risen by half to almost £150 million, new documents have revealed.

Local authorities previously estimated they were already £100 million short in terms of resources dedicated to battling the impact of Covid-19.

But latest analysis from Cosla now puts that at £145 million.

And together with the delay in passing on another £155 million from the UK Government in Barnett Consequentials, it means the SNP is delivering a £300 million blow to councils.

The same briefing note also suggests the organisation has become so exasperated with the SNP, it is now seeking support directly from the UK Government.

It states a “letter to UK Treasury being prepared in conjunction with the other Local Government Associations is currently being finalised, focussing on loss of income”.

The Scottish Conservatives warned the shortfall would badly hamper efforts against the pandemic, and puts immense pressure on overall council budgets which had already been cut to the bone.

Last month, finance secretary Kate Forbes told local authorities to raid their own reserves to pay for measures against the virus.

Scottish Conservative shadow local government minister Graham Simpson said:

“The SNP is really leaving councils in the lurch when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It seems to expect local authorities to magic up cash for this public health and economic emergency.

“The SNP government has received billions in help from the UK Government, and that should be enough to ensure councils aren’t facing a black hole of this magnitude.

“Hard-pressed councils were already being let down by the SNP because of this refusal to pass on the £155 million in Barnett Consequentials.

“Now they face a black hole on top of that which could have severe consequences for the fight against Covid-19 and public services overall.

“Councils are clearly so fed up with getting no help from the SNP that they are passing the begging bowl to Rishi Sunak.

“Kate Forbes needs to step up to the mark and say how she is going to help councils deliver on the mountain of work they are being expected to deliver.”