Scotland politics

Talks planned on Scottish councils funding deal

council services
Image caption Scotland's councils carry out a wide range of services from running schools, emptying bins and maintaining roads

An attempt is to be made to help resolve a row over local government budgets at a meeting later.

Finance Secretary John Swinney and senior councillors from all the major parties represented at the local government organisation Cosla will hold talks.

Many councillors have concerns or queries about this year's funding offer from the Scottish government.

The original deadline for councils to accept the deal had to be delayed.

A deal will not be reached on Tuesday - it will be up to each individual council to decide whether they are accepting the offer.

Councils get the bulk of their money from direct Scottish government funding plus business rates.

This year they are set to receive less in total while many say they will get less than they had originally forecast. This has left some looking for fresh cuts and savings urgently.

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Image caption Some councillors are hoping for progress on funding social care

A few councils are actively considering the possibility of ending the council tax freeze.

Any council which does increase tax rates would have to give up money allocated to them by the Scottish government to compensate them for the freeze - this means any rise would have to be significant.

Moray Council is the only one so far to make a firm proposal - it says council tax bills would have to rise by 18% to protect services.

Speaking after Friday's deadline was moved, the first minister's spokeswoman said: "It has gone back because the discussions with Cosla are continuing and in discussion with Cosla we thought it would be best to lift the deadline date."

She added that this "probably indicates we're having quite productive discussions and we think those discussions should continue".

'Totally unacceptable'

But Cosla, which represents most Scottish councils, had said earlier the package of measures for local government within Mr Swinney's budget, including the council tax freeze, was "totally unacceptable".

A spokesman added: "We are still in active negotiations with the Scottish government around the 2016/17 settlement."

BBC Scotland understands councils do not expect an overall increase in funding to be offered by Mr Swinney on Tuesday.

One area they may seek more clarity on is the funding covering health and social care.

One Labour council, Renfrewshire, has indicated it cannot accept the government offer as it currently stands.

The government is expected to set a new date for councils to indicate whether they will accept the funding offer later.

A number of councils still have not announced dates for their annual budget meetings - typically held in mid February - or intend to hold them later than normal.

So far, only Edinburgh Council has set a budget which, implicitly, means they are accepting the government offer.

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