A SCOTTISH council is facing questions from a Cabinet Secretary after its Labour leader warned of “cuts” to its budget – only to see a confirmed underspend of £10 million.

In December, Fife Council leader David Ross – the head of the minority Labour administration which is propped up by votes from other Unionist parties – claimed the council was facing “more cuts and a deterioration in services”.

But Shirley-Anne Somerville, the MSP for Dunfermline and Scottish Government Social Justice Secretary, said a council revenue report confirmed it was in fact looking at a £10m underspend.

The SNP MSP said: "After months of complaining about not having enough resources, we now find out the Labour-Tory coalition in charge at Fife Council have discovered an extra £10m.

"That is quite the oversight and certainly raises questions about how the local authority are managing their budget.

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"People across Dunfermline and West Fife will now rightly expect that this money will be invested in their communities, which are continuing to struggle with the cost of living crisis.

"However, the money must be spent during this financial year so it is crucial the council acts quickly to ensure this £10m can be used effectively.

"I will therefore be writing to the local authority and asking for further information on their plans."

The group leaders on Fife Council gathered at Fife House last week to discuss the 2024-2025 budget.

Two facts were undisputed: Fife Council will receive £861m from the Scottish Government as part of its general pay package, and it will receive an additional £9.5m from the government to compensate for the national council tax freeze.

LibDem group leader Jonny Tepp said the £861m general revenue package is equivalent to a £3m cash cut compared to last year.

That conclusion ignores the money Fife will receive for the council tax freeze, according to SNP opposition leader David Alexander.

The National:

“If you add in the amount we’re getting for the tax freeze, that adds another £9.5 million which my colleagues forgot to mention,” he said.

Tepp argued that “it’s a question of giving with one hand and taking away with the other".

“We’re getting more on the council tax but less on a like-for-like basis on the overall grant,” he said.

According to council leader Ross, the £9.5m Fife is receiving is equal to a 5% council tax increase. However, he argued that it is losing the equivalent of a 2% increase on the core grant.

“Effectively we’re getting a 3% council tax raise which is what we were estimating, but council tax is still outwith our control,” said Ross.

“I’d certainly have been proposing to go out and consult on another 1% increase to see if people would put up with that.”

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In October, First Minister Humza Yousaf announced that council tax would be frozen at current levels into 2025.

Ross, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) and others have been very critical of that centralised decision ever since.

Alexander defended the SNP position. He argued that increasing council tax, such as Fife Council did last year, adds “to the debt of an awful lot of people who can’t afford to pay it”.

“We have right now got to protect the people out there from any excess increases,” he said.

“If we can freeze council tax this year, we should grasp that. We cherish it.”

Concluding the debate, Ross argued that his Labour administration has preferred to put money into targeted support and hardship funds rather than “simply holding down the council tax”.