Report: Councils continue to perform well, despite reduction in finances

Written by Kate Shannon on 12 February 2018 in News

Annual figures were contained in the Local Government Benchmarking Framework, published by the Improvement Service

Money/Savings: Picture credit - Holyrood stock images

Scotland’s councils are continuing to perform well in terms of service delivery despite a sharp reduction in their finances, according to a new report.

The data was contained in the Local Government Benchmarking Framework, published annually by the Improvement Service.

Benchmarking 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, year-on-year. 

Across the seven-year period for which data was presented, total current funding for Scottish councils has reduced by 7.6 per cent in real terms from £10.5bn to £9.7bn. 

Education spending has been relatively protected, and child protection and social care spending have grown substantially. 

As these account for over 70 per cent of the benchmarked expenditure within the framework, other services have taken much more substantial reductions. 

Expenditure on roads has fallen by 20 per cent in real terms, on planning by 33 per cent and on culture and leisure services by 17 per cent.

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) president Councillor Alison Evison, who also chairs the Improvement Service Board, said: “Today’s report shows that the cuts to local government have really started to bite, particularly in the non-statutory services. 

“It also illustrates clearly that despite this Scotland’s councils continue to deliver high quality services to their communities.

“It is particularly pleasing that the data released today clearly demonstrates that councils and schools are closing the attainment gap.

“There are however, still major inequalities in attainment between the most deprived pupils and others. 

“Continuing reform and improvement is essential, but it is critical to ensure that continued reform does not disrupt the stable and consistent improvement trend already there, as schools, councils and regional improvement collaboratives adjust to new roles and relationships.

“What councils are continuing to achieve for communities is impressive in spite of the financial challenges we face.”

The report found that measures of educational outcome continue to show positive progress overall but particularly for children from the most deprived areas.

Another positive to emerge from the data is the increased usage of libraries, museums and leisure facilities coupled with reduced costs.

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