Scotland's councils call for £1bn increase to local government budget
Scotland’s councils are calling for a £1bn increase to their budget from the Scottish Government as they begin negotiations ahead of the Scottish budget.
Local government body COSLA says the increase is needed to maintain essential services, with budgets increasingly ringfenced, meaning savings having to come from the minority of areas, such as roads and planning.
The £1bn increase to the revenue budget, which covers days to day costs for staffing and running services, includes £202m for inflation, £308m to begin restoring budgets to previous levels after several years of cuts and £497m for new Scottish Government policy commitments.
The local government organisation is also calling for a £157m increase to the capital budget, as well as wider changes to the way councils are funded, including longer-term certainty over budgets, a removal of the cap on council tax and more powers to create local taxes.
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.”
COSLA president Councillor Alison Evison added: “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.”
However, COSLA has welcomed the announcement that the Scottish budget will be published ahead of the UK budget, on 6 February.
Evison said: “I am extremely pleased the Scottish Government has listened and responded to calls from COSLA for an early Scottish budget.
“I wrote last week to [finance secretary Derek] Mackay highlighting that in these exceptional circumstances it is vital that all spheres of government in Scotland work together to protect and support the essential services that local government provides every day to individuals, families and communities.”