Councils continue to deliver despite financial pressures, new report shows

Written by Kate Shannon on 27 February 2017 in News

Spending has reduced by 11 per cent in real terms in the past six years

Scottish council spending has reduced by 11 per cent in real terms from £17.18 billion to £15.30 billion in the past six years, according to a new report.

However, it also states that despite the reduction, councils are still largely continuing to deliver for their communities.

The Local Government Benchmarking Framework (LGBF) report, published just two months before the council elections, examines indicators for every major service within local government and provides detailed analysis of the national trends and variations across councils and between councils. 


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Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) president, councillor David O’Neill said: “There are some real positive things in the report - primarily that despite the financial pressures - Scotland’s councils continue to cope with austerity particularly in services that are of the utmost importance to communities. Two issues in particular are worth highlighting.

“Firstly on education, the report clearly shows that councils are making significant progress on improving the attainment for our most deprived pupils - a 25 per cent improvement across the last five years. 

“Any education reform should build on what is already happening on the ground and should endeavour to improve on the current upward trajectory.”

However, O’Neill added that councils are not complacent and that continuing effort will be needed to build on these achievements.

“Despite the fact that councils have worked hard to protect the care budget, demand for care is increasing very rapidly due to our aging population,” he said. 

“The effect is that a greater level of resource has become targeted on a smaller number of people with very high needs.  The balance between people supported at home and in residential care has shifted positively, but we are now running up against serious capacity issues across many parts of Scotland.”

The main findings from the report show that reduction in spend has been variable across service areas. Education has been relatively protected with a drop of four per cent, while child protection has grown by 19 per cent and adult social care has increased by six per cent.

However, other areas have seen substantial cuts. According to the report, leisure and culture services have seen a funding drop of 12 per cent, parks and open spaces a decrease of 18 per cent and roads maintenance has fallen by 21 per cent.

Benchmarking is an improvement process that helps organisations understand how they perform in comparison to other relevant organisations.

It uses specific indicators to measure how organisations are performing, for example, how much a service costs per user. These provide a simple metric which can then be compared across organisations and year-on-year.

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