Clarity needed on Barnett consequentials.
During a session of the Joint Executive Committee (JEC) with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes outlined some of the challenges needing to be addressed as part of the forthcoming joint review of the Scottish Fiscal Framework.
Chairing the meeting in London, Ms Forbes highlighted the need for further collaboration on fiscal flexibility, including consideration of further financial powers as part of the forthcoming Fiscal Framework review.
The meeting follows the UK Government's Council Tax Energy Rebate announcement and the consequential funding for the Scottish Government.
The Spring Budget Revision has also been published showing that the Scottish Government has spent almost 15 billion on measures to respond to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. It represents the final decisions made in the Scottish Government budget allocations for this financial year despite the challenges due to late notification of consequentials.
Speaking following the JEC, Ms Forbes recently said:
I have had a constructive conversation with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury this afternoon, where there was a frank exchange of views on what is quickly required from the Fiscal Framework Review and the need for further fiscal flexibility for Scotland.
Our experiences of dealing with both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic and supporting those struggling with the cost of living crisis clearly demonstrate how difficult it is to take actions we deem vital without sufficient fiscal powers and often with late notice or lack of engagement when further funding is coming.
This has been proven once again today. Whilst I will always welcome funding, the net change to our budget isn't clear yet - we are awaiting urgent clarity on this from the Treasury and how it will impact our final settlement for the current year.
As the First Minister has said, we will pass on the full consequential funding to support people struggling with the current costs of living. Council Tax is already lower in Scotland and our current support such as the single Council Tax Reduction Scheme protects 470,000 lower income households.
Council Tax is higher in England with support for low income households fragmented and subjected to big cuts, resulting in households falling into debt and sizeable increases in the amount of council tax going uncollected.
The single Council Tax Reduction Scheme has maintained support since the abolition of Council Tax benefit in 2013 and Scottish Government funding for it has exceeded local authority costs by over 97 million over the past five years.