TENSIONS between Scottish and local government leaders are at their highest point in years after this week’s Budget, the Sunday National has been told.

Local leaders are believed to be ready to mount a “full-frontal attack” over what they see as a lack of cash for their areas.

Meanwhile council taxpayers in several areas may face charge increases of around 5% in 2022, according to insiders.

The relationship between town halls and Holyrood is now “more pointed than they have been in years” in light of this week’s draft budget announcement, it is claimed.

Furious local leaders hit out at Holyrood after Finance Secretary Kate Forbes delivered her spending plan on Thursday. It allocated an £11.1 billion settlement for local government. But umbrella body Cosla (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) says that represents a £100 million cut.

And while Cosla called upon ministers to remove the council tax cap that limited the rise individual authorities can impose to 3%, there’s now concern how high hikes might go amidst an increasing cost of living and with fewer than six months to go until the local government elections.

Insiders have told the Sunday National double-digit rises are unlikely. However, it’s expected that most will put charges up by 3%, rising to 5% in some areas. Average bills are currently £1300 for a Band D property and around £3180 for those in Band H. Forbes has said she expects council bosses to “do the right thing by their local populations” when they set their budgets in the new year.

At a meeting of all council leaders on Friday, there was unanimous agreement that the deal wasn’t good enough, the Sunday National understands. One senior local government figure said: “It’s not the end of the Budget process. Cosla will make a much more full-frontal attack.”

On council tax rates, another said: “Nobody is talking about shooting it up but we might need to consider something about 5%. We need to look at the impact that is going to have.”

In the run-up to the Budget, the Scottish Government had said it faced tough decisions. Forbes said she’d allocate an additional £791.4m added to councils’ core budget, making for a 7% increase on the current year.

However, councils say much of that sum is ring-fenced for the delivery of national policy commitments including those on pay for social care workers and the expansion of teacher numbers. They’ve said a £62.6m rise to capital budgets will mean they’re “standing still”.

But Forbes has said she’s protected core budgets in cash terms and planned for “real-terms growth to the local government settlement, particularly around social care” – as well as delivering the “further flexibilities and discretionary power” councils have long sought.

While the long-standing council tax freeze and then cap gave security to taxpayers, they were criticised for limiting local democracy and for the amount available to spend in communities.

Laying out her proposals, Forbes said she was working to “bring much-needed support and stability, to ensure our economy recovers and we protect those who have been hit the hardest” in the pandemic.

She added: “Our approach continues to target support in the immediate term, as well as tracking a course over the coming year to build a fairer, stronger and greener economy.”

She said she would write to the Chancellor because “in the absence of a UK Budget much of the information we need to plan with certainty is missing”.

She said: “We must persevere with a Budget based on a partial, settlement. Left waiting until the UK Budget to see the full hand being dealt to us.

“I have repeatedly welcomed the additional Covid funding – largely borrowed – provided by the UK Government.

“I do so again. But I also have a duty as Finance Secretary to make the case forcefully when I believe more is required. There is £21bn sitting in the UK Covid reserve. Our share of that funding would help meet the ongoing needs of our businesses, our NHS and other public services.”

Council funding was set at £6.97bn out of a total of £11.1bn, rising from £6.9bn of £11.1bn this year, both of which exclude funding allocated to tackle the pandemic. According to a real-terms calculator tool produced by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe), the core budget should have risen to just over £7.1bn to keep up with inflation, a gap of £137.3m.

The leaders of all 32 local authorities met on Friday afternoon, after which Cosla slammed the settlement, saying it “cannot accept the essential services” its members provide “being once again overlooked by the Scottish Government”. Its president Councillor Alison Evison said: “The Scottish Government has to realise that cuts to our core budget hit the most vulnerable in our communities the hardest and are damaging to our workforce.”

The National: Cosla President Alison EvisonCosla President Alison Evison

One SNP politician said: “We are really concerned about the level we are trying to operate at and what it means for reserves, what it means in terms of basic services. We are pushing really hard behind the scenes.”

On their own council, the politician went on: “We made some really difficult decisions in the last few years and that’s put us in a much better position than others, who are in a significantly worse position.

“They were looking to deliver savings when Covid hit. Officers were diverted to Covid response, meaning they weren’t able to put everything they wanted to in place.”