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Coronavirus / SIC leader welcomes assurances over local government funding

Lerwick Town Hall.

THE LEADER of Shetland Islands Council (SIC) has welcomed assurances from the Scottish Government that £155 million of emergency funding will be passed to the country’s local authorities in full.

Councillor Steven Coutts said on Thursday that the SIC is working with local government body COSLA on how this funding will be distributed across Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

There has been worry among councils in Scotland over when or how the funding, designed to help local authorities with the cost of their Covid-19 response, will be paid out.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes had previously written to COSLA to suggest that councils should dip into their reserves until their case for additional money was becoming clearer.

Clarifying the situation in the Scottish Parliament this week, Forbes said that “every penny of that £155 million will go to local government”.

She said in order to decide on where it should be distributed to, further information is required from COSLA on the “funding pressures that its members are facing so that the money can be spent fairly on the areas of greatest need”.

Speaking in response, SIC leader Coutts said: “It is good to see the government recognise the importance of this initial funding being passed to local government.

“There is still work to do moving forward as we continue to deal with the pandemic.”

The funding is described as “consequentials” as it stems from the UK government.

COSLA’s resources spokesperson Gail Macgregor said it was a positive step in the right direction.

“Scotland’s councils are doing a heroic job in keeping a huge range of essential services running to meet the needs of communities and to be responsive locally,” she said.

“The costs to local government in dealing with this pandemic and coping with the loss of income are going to be substantial.

“COSLA is working closely with all councils on an ongoing basis to understand the scale of these costs and to ensure that Scottish Government recognises that this could well exceed the £155 million consequentials.”