Local Government Funding Is Not Keeping Up With Needs Say COSLA
13th January 2020
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has launched a campaign to persuade the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP to invest in Scotland's councils before it is too late. COSLA has produced a briefing document Invest in Essential Services which clearly shows the reduction to Local Government funding since 2013/14 and how the flexibility councils have to spend their budget has been eroded by the Scottish Government.
Between 2013/14 and 2019/20 national policy initiatives have increased, and now account for 60% of council budgets. This means that cuts can only be applied to the remaining 40%, meaning that cuts are amplified in services that are not protected. Speaking at the launch of this morning's campaign, COSLA Resources Spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor said: "COSLA's vision is that Scotland's communities are sustainable, vibrant places to live, work and visit. Every year, councils invest in a huge range of services and capital projects that are key drivers for economic growth. "However, ringfencing and Scottish Government-devised policy initiatives mean that more and more has to be delivered from an ever decreasing portion of local budgets.
"The reality is that services such as roads, buses, paths, planning, community learning, events, sports facilities, libraries, tourism, business support and environmental health all sit unprotected. These services are what make our communities attractive places to live, work and visit. "Local Government's role in creating sustainable communities cannot continue to be underestimated.
The public rely on us as leaders and as a provider of vital services. Echoing these concerns, COSLA President Councillor Alison Evison, Aberdeenshire councillor said: "Local Government is the sphere of Government closest to Scotland's citizens. "Sadly however, whichever way you want to dress it up, the reality is that in recent budgets the Scottish Government has chosen to overlook the essential services that communities rely on day in day out.
"Our vision for Scotland's communities depends on fair funding for council services. If we are to truly realise Scotland's potential then local authorities must be receive a fair settlement."
Official figures show funding per head in Aberdeenshire has fallen by £79 since 2013/14 and by £176 in Highland. Most councils in Scotland now have a growing budget gap and have been cutting staff and services over the past few years. In addition increasing charges where possible to close the gap has been nowhere sufficient with the use of reserves in some cases taking them near to the brink.
Delayed Westminster Budget will cause more impacts to Local Government as Scottish Government cannot form its own budget timeously.
Highland council has decided to make budget based on best estimates.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has warned the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the deep risk facing Scotland's Councils as a result of delaying a UK Budget until the 11th March - describing the decision as "extremely worrying".
Whilst Local Government is a devolved matter in Scotland, COSLA is arguing that the significant delay to the UK budget puts the essential services Scotland’s Local Authorities provide to communities at risk. Traditionally the Scottish Budget would follow the UK Budget setting out the money available for Scottish Local Government.
Commenting on this, COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor said:"By delaying the UK budget until mid-March, the UK Government is putting thousands of essential public services at risk of going without funding. COSLA is calling for the Scottish Government to do all it can to mitigate this risk.
“Local authorities carry out a complex and hugely important role in our society. As the employer for 10% of Scotland’s workforce and a procurer of over £6.3bn in goods we are the key economic driver for communities across the country. Any delay to our budgets means that these services are put at risk."
“The UK Government’s decision runs the risk of delaying the Scottish Government’s budget. This significantly impedes the ability for local authorities to formulate their own budgets meaning Scotland’s communities are disadvantaged.
“COSLA is calling on the UK Government to provide Scotland with an increased settlement so that the Scottish Government can provide Councils with enough funding to deliver the vital services that our communities rely on."
Commenting, Scottish Labour Finance, Jobs and Fair Work Spokesperson, Rhoda Grant, said:“ It is absolutely vital that local government is fully equipped to deliver essential services to the community and able to protect schools, care for the elderly, libraries and sports facilities from government austerity.
“The SNP government has taken Tory austerity, turbo-charged it, and passed it on to Scotland’s councils. Across Scotland local authorities are struggling to deliver lifeline services and are being forced to make more and deeper cuts to services due to government austerity, leaving communities suffering."