Where is the Brexit cash?
Members of North Lanarkshire Council’s Labour group claim money set aside by the Scottish Government in preparation for a no-deal Brexit has not been passed on, when it should have been.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declined to answer questions about this money while appearing on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
A further £50 million of Barnett consequentials included in the UK budget have also been held in reserve rather than passed to councils.
NLC depute leader Paul Kelly said: “It is quite clear that a no-deal Brexit would have a seismic effect on the North Lanarkshire economy.
“According to the Office of National Statistics, North Lanarkshire is one of the fastest and strongest growing economies in Scotland with record levels of inward investment and employment. All of this progress could be put at risk as a result of a no-deal Brexit.
“As the biggest employer in the area, we, as a council, need certainty that the Scottish Government is doing all it can to support councils to prepare for every possible Brexit eventuality.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing that councils like North Lanarkshire are not currently receiving their share of the almost £150m the Westminster Government has given to Scotland over recent months.
“This will undoubtedly have an effect on the work the council can do to mitigate the effects of what would be a catastrophic no deal Brexit.”
A spokesman for the North Lanarkshire’s SNP Group said: “Labour, of all groups, should be embarrassed to even attempt to make political capital from Brexit whilst their leadership constantly fail in their duties as the Official Opposition in Westminster.
“Their constant dithering, together with the disgracefully inept government, has brought this country to the cliff edge of a no deal Brexit. It’s taken the SNP to show leadership and to stand up for Scotland.
“Labour have got it wrong… Again.
“Unlike in England, the councils have been cut to the bone and money is then given back based on the government’s whims. The Scottish Government treats our councils with respect and puts in the money in advance.”
In Parliament, finance secretary Derek McKay denied ring-fencing local authority funding for Brexit purposes and stressed the consequentials were part of the budget.
The local spokesman added: “Labour’s attempts to divert us from looking at how they are running NLC is worrying. This week it’s ‘oh look, Brexit’. We can only guess what they are trying to take our attention away from. Is it the swingeing cuts to our janitors? Is it penalising those who want to make their homes better and tidier but now can’t as they are charging £25 for special uplifts?
“Or is it the cuts to classroom assistants and attempts to remove transport from our school children?
“Normally we would tell the Labour group to get on with the day job, but with their current performance, the people of North Lanarkshire should feel relieved that they are focusing their attention elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, South Lanarkshire Council says it is “in a position” to prepare for an election pending the outcome of the Brexit process.
No elections are scheduled to take place in the region until the next Scottish Parliament elections in May 2021 but if Brexit were to be delayed further, the UK would have to take part in the European Parliament elections on May 23.
Should an election be called, it would be down to the local authority to put arrangements in place to allow voters to go to the polls.
South Lanarkshire Council weren’t drawn on whether they were actively preparing for the EU elections, however a spokesperson said: “The council has a dedicated election team in place permanently and should an election to the European Parliament, or indeed any electoral event, be called, we are in a position to make the necessary arrangements.”
Neil McGrory and Stephen Bark - Local Democracy Reporting Service