The leader of Glasgow aims to forge an SNP-Labour alliance to demand a bigger share of public funding for councils in poorer areas.

In a message that will sting some of her party colleagues in better-off parts of Scotland, Susan Aitken has called for richer local authorities to get less.

Speaking to Herald on Sunday, the nationalist said she believed the current Scottish Government system for financing councils was unfair.

Aitken said the government gave local authorities too little - and that the way what it did provide was distributed took too little account of poverty.

She wants Glasgow to team up with a series of other high deprivation councils such as Dundee, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire and West Dunbartonshire - run by both Labour and the SNP - to fight for a bigger slice of the cake.

Asked if the current local government settlement was fair, Aitken said: “I think no. I think it is not fair because I don’t think poverty and deprivation are adequately reflected in the way that local government funds are distributed.

“I think that is an issue that has got worse in recent years.

“We need to do something to address that if we are serious about place-based solutions to poverty - such as dealing with things like vacant and derelict land - then we need to look at how local government settlement supports that and at the moment it doesn’t.

“We need to recognise that where poverty is most acute, most prevalent, then that should be reflected in the way local government funds are distributed.”

Aitken’s remarks echo concerns expressed by Labour leaders in Glasgow and other post-industrial parts of Scotland to ministers of their party before the SNP took government in 2007.”

Previous Labour leaders of Glasgow - such as Charlie Gordon - would routinely clash with the government of former First Minister Jack McConnell.

Aitken - who refers to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as “boss” - has stressed that her party leader is not in charge in the City Chambers.

Asked what Sturgeon thought about her redistribution proposals, Aitken said: “She is open-minded about it.”


But Aitken added that councils themselves had to be ready to help divvy up the “pie” in a fairer way. Asked if this mean rich councils getting less, she replied: “Yes.”

She added: “Do we need a bigger pie as well? Yes we do. We are always going to ask for a bigger pie. It is never going to be enough.”

It is understood there have been preliminary chats around Cosla meetings. But no formal alliance has been reached about a redistribution of central funding to the poorest.

Aitken said: “There is a group pf councils - Glasgow, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, Dundee and North Ayrshire, which share in common the challenges that come with deeply imbedded patterns of deprivation.

“We have a combination of SNP and labour leaders and we should be working together.”

Labour leaders are not shutting down the prospect of an alliance.

Stephen McCabe, of Inverclyde, said: “I would be happy to have a conversation with Susan about how we secure more funding for Council areas with high levels of poverty and deprivation.”

However, he added: “I am not convinced the way to do this is through a review of the current distribution system for Scottish Government grants, particularly in the middle of an economic crisis precipitated by the pandemic.

“Councils with growing populations will simply argue that a greater weight should be given to population while those of us with high levels of poverty and deprivation will argue that these factors should be more important.

“The pandemic has however once again exposed the inequalities in our society with areas like Inverclyde hit hardest due to the poor health of many in our communities, which is directly related to higher levels of poverty and deprivation. Concerted action by the UK and Scottish Governments to address these inequalities is long overdue.”

The new Labour leader of the opposition of Glasgow, Malcolm Cunning, said: “We have long argued that formula used to allocate local government funding to Glasgow does not adequately reflect the level of need.

“But it is not just our share of the pot that is a problem, it is the size of the pot. The SNP Scottish Government have consistently underfunded the entire local government sector. SNP councillors have signally failed to challenge that.”

Scotland’s local authorities depend on the Scottish Government for most of their funding - and this is particularly the case for islands and poorer areas, like Inverclyde, with weak council tax bases.

Analysis by the Scottish Parliament’s impartial research unit, Spice, shows the Government has been cutting contributions to councils faster than its own real income has fallen under austerity.

Spice found that, in real terms, when adjusted for inflation, central government finding to councils fell 7.5% between 2013-2014. The government’s own revenues, mostly because of UK-wide austerity policies imposed by the Conservatives, were down just 2.5%. Of all the fully mainland councils, Glasgow took the biggest hit, with its funding per head decreased by £270 per citizen.

In Inverclyde the real-terms drop was a more modest £104. The council, however, has a much smaller tax base. For council tax, as an example, half of its homes are Band A, the kind of property which generates the least revenue. Only Orkney and the Western Isles, which their high overhead islands services, depend more on central government for funding than Inverclyde.

Spice said in the last two years there had been a reversal in the trend of councils getting bigger cuts than the Scottish Government - but not nearly by enough to compensate for earlier, steeper declines. However, local authorities across the country remain dissatisfied.

Council leaders in Orkney and Shetland - which get far higher levels of public spending because of their greater costs - even cited cutbacks when making recent demands for greater devolution.