Scottish Government Budget In Current Form Will Devastate Communities
19th February 2020
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has warned that the Scottish Government's Budget will hit vulnerable communities the hardest.
COSLA has warned the Government that it has not considered successive years of cuts, or rising inflation and demand and have therefore put council services at risk.
Councils have said they believe the budget will have a major impact on the Government's ability to address the four priorities of inclusive growth, tackling child poverty, wellbeing and climate change, and puts Scottish Government commitments at risk if no further funding is found as part of the Budget Scrutiny process.
COSLA's view is that taken on its own, the Scottish Government's announcement of an additional £495m for councils is misleading to communities.
Councils are required to deliver an additional £590m worth of new Scottish Government policy commitments, resulting in a cut to council budgets of £95m. It is vital to note that this doesn't account for inflation and therefore the real terms cut to the Local Government revenue budget is nearer £300m.
The draft capital budget is equally as devastating. Whilst £54m of new capital money has been announced this is negated by £171m worth of Scottish Government commitments. This leaves a £117m cut to core capital budgets of 17%. Again, if we include inflation the real terms cut to capital budgets is £130m.
This settlement does not address any of the restoration called for in light of many years of cuts.
Speaking ahead of an evidence session at the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Communities Committee tomorrow (Wednesday), COSLA Resources Spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor said: "COSLA has campaigned hard in recent months for the Scottish Government to address falling Local Government budgets.
"We called for Scottish Government commitments to be funded, inflation to be accounted for and restoration to the budget to reflect successive years of cuts to Local Government. It is unfortunate that a sphere of government in this country has not been listened to.
"This draft budget will impact on jobs, frontline services and Local Government's ability to address inclusive economic growth, child poverty, wellbeing and climate change and does not address the growing demand most councils are facing in relation to services."
COSLA President Councillor Alison Evison added: "Recent benchmarking statistics have shown that 10,000 FTE jobs have been lost in Local Government since 2010/11. The impact of this on communities is real and cannot continue.
"We are calling on Scottish Government and the Parliament to address these concerns, listen to our asks and prevent the loss of essential council services which communities rely upon.
"Make no mistake, councils and the services which communities rely upon will be at risk as a result of this budget."
Highland council have stated -
Budget 2020 to 2022
We are currently planning for the budget for 2020-2021. We know that we will have less money to spend on everything we do, so we are working hard to plan for meeting a budget gap which could be in the region of £77 million over the next 3 years. We have already managed £100m in savings to meet budget reductions over the past 6 years, whilst still investing in major projects for the Highlands. We have already reduced management costs, increased levels of income and made savings across all services through redesign and efficiencies. The next three years will be no less challenging.
The council have already planned their strategy for a 3 year budget 20/21 - 23/24 and was discussed at the council meeting on 5 September 2020. This can be seen at https://www.highland.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/75757/item_16_revenue_budget_strategy_202021_to_202223
The problem for this years budget setting was the lateness of the UK budget caused by the general election followed by the delayed Scottish Budget The strategy is set and if agreed in March looks likely to go ahead with some tweeking depending on the figures finally coming from Westminster and the Scottish Government.
If the figures are as COSLA suggest then there is little doubt that more cuts are likely to be instigated not with standing he huge work going on in the background for the past few years to redesign services.
Third sector groups who rely on grants from the Highland Council and NHS Highland are very worried about the future - hence the publicity surrounding sight Action highlighted by Rhoda Grant in the past few days.
In addition the council and NHS Highland have been holding behind closed door talks regarding the demand by NHS Highland for a huge increase in the money paid by the council under contract for Adult Services which if agreed to will see the council having much less money for other areas for the services they provide. The five year contract under the Lead Agency model comes to an end in March and anew contract needs to be signed for the next five years.
The council pays NHS for Adult services but on the other hand NHS pays the council for some children's services in a set of complex arrangements.
The budget leaflet says - Reductions to our budget means our workforce numbers will be less over the coming years so we need to plan to have a flexible workforce with the right skills and training, with the right staff in the right place to deliver services , reducing reliance on contractors and using staff resource and training to do this.
The Highland council budget will be discussed at the 5 March 2020 meeting of the council. Papers are usually available a week before the meeting at https://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/committee/52/the_highland_council
The advance leaflet can be found at - https://www.highland.gov.uk/downloads/file/20279/our_budget_leaflet_issue_2
The 2018/19 Highland council budget
Overall, the budget gap of £15.146 million has been met by a package of savings which includes increasing Council Tax income by £3.448 million, increasing income by £3.059 million, reducing expenditure by making savings of £5.1 million, and setting a target of £2.250 million to be saved through Redesign.
Budget papers for 201819 at https://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/3934/highland_council