Scots being ‘short-changed’ by council budget cuts, according to Scottish local government leader
SGLP convener Councillor Jenny Laing made the comments as the partnership launches new research into the impact of cuts to council budgets
Councillor Jenny Laing, leader of Aberdeen City Council and convener of the Scottish Local Government Partnership - Image credit: Aberdeen City Council
The people of Scotland are being “short-changed” by Scottish Government cuts to local government funding, according to the leader of a Scottish local government organisation.
Jenny Laing, leader of Aberdeen City Council and convener of the Scottish Local Government Partnership (SLGP), accused the Scottish Government of “negligence” in not evaluating the effects of changes to council funding.
Meanwhile, the partnership as a whole branded the Scottish Government's local government funding formula "not fit for purpose".
The comments come as the SLGP – which is made up of four councils: Aberdeen, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire – prepares to launch new research into the effects of cuts to council funding.
The research will analyse the way funds are distributed and investigate what councils have done to try and mitigate the cuts and the impact on services.
The findings are to be published in a report ahead of the Scottish Government's 2017-18 budget later this year.
The report will look at the impact of existing spending commitments, such as PPP repayments, and how the financial situations of local authorities are affected by having to deliver the Scottish Government’s policy pledges in areas such as teacher numbers.
It will also propose alternative funding models for local authorities.
Laing said: "The future of local government finances have never looked so bleak and we hope that this report will force Nicola Sturgeon to re-examine the way funds are currently distributed and make her realise that while these cuts continue, wholesale reform of the current system is essential."
She added that although councils have made efficiency savings in a number of areas, there is a limit to what can be achieved through changes to management structures, back-office functions, rationalisation and service restructuring.
The SLGP was formed 18 months ago after the four member councils, which together represent around 1.3 million Scots, split from local government umbrella organisation COSLA.
It is arguing for local authorities to be given greater fiscal autonomy from the Scottish Government to raise their own money and manage their local economies.
Criticising the lack of research into the impact of changes to council budgets, Laing said: "Despite all of this chaos, there has been no assessment by the Scottish Government on the impact of budget consolidation on the distribution of spending across service areas or the quality of service delivery.
"Neither has there been any assessment of how the changes to resources available to local government, combined with reprioritisation of particular services areas, is placing particular strains on particular local authorities.
“The distribution of resources to councils has not evolved since 2010 and given the crushing cuts, how can the existing pattern of allocations remain relevant?
"While this kind of negligence continues, we believe the people of Scotland are being short-changed and what we need now is a far-reaching investigation into the scandal of council funding cuts and how they hit the lives of ordinary, hard-working families."
The SGLP is expected to appoint a research organisation to head up the study later this week.
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