Rishi Sunak discusses the Spring Budget
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Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay, said communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will now all benefit from at least £800million of investment by the UK Government. The £4.8billion from the levelling up fund will be used to boost regeneration across the UK.
Councils and Scottish businesses will be given the money by the UK Government which will be used for town centre and high street regeneration and local transport schemes, as well as cultural and heritage projects.
It comes as the nationalists were accused of betraying local services after rejecting a Scottish Conservative demand for fairer funding of Scotland’s councils.
The plan would have given councils a guaranteed amount from the Scottish Government’s budget each year.
Following a debate on the motion today in Holyrood, the motion was amended to remove the Scottish Conservative demand despite getting backing from all opposition parties.
The Tories claimed council budgets were only going up by 1 percent in 2021/22, compared to the Scottish Government receiving a 9 percent uplift.
Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative MSP for Glasgow, said: “It’s clear Scotland’s councils get a rotten deal from the SNP government, which means the Scottish people are getting a bad deal too.
“Let us be clear, long before the COVID-19 crisis began the SNP government has been short-changing Scotland’s councils.”
Speaking in Holyrood, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said councils had faced “the usual conjurer’s trick” from ministers – where money is ring-fenced for new responsibilities but costs end up being higher.
Announcing the new fund this evening, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Stephen Barclay said: “Our levelling-up fund will back local projects to improve everyday life for millions of people and we look forward to working with all areas to boost local economies.
“By extending the levelling-up fund to be UK-wide, we are ensuring that no community in the United Kingdom is left behind.”
Express.co.uk understands the decision not to allocate funding through the Barnet formula to the devolved nations comes amid increased concerns from Chancellor Rishi Sunak and officials over the Scottish Government’s attitude on COVID-19 funding.
Cllr Douglas Lumsden, Tory leader of Aberdeen Council, said: “This Levelling Up fund will ensure that ambitious projects that are currently being stalled in Scotland because of the Scottish Government austerity measures can now proceed at pace with UK Government money.
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“This initiative is a win, win for Scotland and confirms that devolution works if the right models are put in place to encourage success.”
However, the SNP accused Westminster of bypassing the devolved Scottish Government, by spending money in areas that are said were controlled by Holyrood ministers.
Kirsten Oswald, deputy leader in Westminster, said: “The Tory Government’s move to bypass the devolved Governments and dictate spending over devolved areas is yet another sign of its naked power grab plans.”
She added: “Rather than passing on funding through Barnett consequentials – which could have seen Scotland receiving its share totalling around £400 million – the Tories are intent on dismantling devolution and taking control, with absolutely no clarity over how much will be spent in Scotland.”
Ms Oswald said the extension of the Levelling Up Fund had come after the UK Government cut Scotland’s capital budget by 5 percent in the latest spending review.
She insisted: “The funding for Scotland should be passed to the Scottish Government to administer on behalf of the people of Scotland.”
Scotland’s Local Government Secretary Aileen Campbell added the government had been working with councils to develop a fiscal framework, but this had been paused due to the pandemic.
But Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the extended fund was “a fantastic example of the UK Government delivering for people in Scotland”.
The Conservative MP said: “It will provide a boost to communities right across Scotland as we set out to build back better from the Covid pandemic.”
He added that the initiative would allow the UK Government to “directly invest in capital projects in Scotland”, as he said he looked forward to “working on the delivery of the fund in Scotland and with local authorities, who know best what their communities really need”.
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