A senior Angus councillor’s plea for extra winter weather cash for rural authorities has been met with a cool Scottish Government response.
Councillor Braden Davy said councils like Angus and Aberdeenshire have an increased burden with a larger area to maintain, and are often hit worst by bad weather.
But as snow brought chaos to communities across the district, the Scottish Government said it was up to individual councils to decide how to spend funding as it sees fit.
Forfar and District Conservative Mr Davy pressed finance secretary Kate Forbes for extra cash prior to the budget.
He said: “At a time when our health service is already under significant pressure, the need for funding has never been greater to ensure council operatives are able to adequately grit communities across our region.
“The last thing we need is our A&E departments filling up with falls and breaks when people are at risk of spreading or even catching Covid-19.
“We saw during the recent cold spell a significant increase in admissions to hospital.
“This can be avoided if councils like Angus and Aberdeenshire have sufficient resources to fund enhanced gritting.”
He added: “Winter maintenance budgets have come under increased pressure due to record cuts in Government funding.”
Angus finances took a battering when the so-called Beast from the East arrived in 2018, bringing with it a £1m bill to tackle the elements.
But it was followed by one of the mildest winters on record and more than £150,000 was saved from the £2.6m winter regime budget.
Mr Davy added: “We must ensure we can maintain our roads and pavements so people can benefit from fresh air and exercise.
“The pressure on council services is yet another example of how the north east tends to lose out to big cities in the Central Belt.”
Scottish Government response
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We believe local authorities are best placed to decide how to allocate the financial resources available to them on the basis of local needs and priorities.
“In 2021/22, Angus Council will receive a total funding package of £237.9 million to support local services, which includes an extra £6.7 million to support vital day-to-day services, equivalent to an increase of 3.1% compared to 2020-21.
“The day-to-day service funding includes £1.7 million to compensate the council should it decide to freeze council tax levels, helping to protect household incomes.
“Angus Council will also receive its share of the £259 million in 2021/22 to support Covid-19 pressures, which it will be able to spend as it sees fit for the maximum benefit of the community.
“The Scottish Government is extremely grateful to local authorities for the crucial role they continue to play in maintaining critical public services throughout the pandemic.”