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by Kirsteen Paterson
05 December 2022
Scottish Budget: Councils warn of 'inevitable' cuts in new 'SOS' to John Swinney

DFM John Swinney (centre) will deliver the Scottish Budget next week

Scottish Budget: Councils warn of 'inevitable' cuts in new 'SOS' to John Swinney

Job losses at Scottish councils are "inevitable" under Scottish Government spending plans, local government body Cosla has said.

The nation-wide organisation has today sent out an "SOS call" to the Scottish Government over an estimated £1bn funding gap.

And Shona Morrison, president of Cosla (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), has said "it is inevitable that current spending plans will lead to job losses".

The warning comes in the week before Deputy First Minister John Swinney will deliver the Scottish Budget on December 15.

Councils are in an "extremely precarious financial situation", Cosla claims, and the projected shortfall is equivalent to the entire required budget for early learning and childcare delivery, as many as 17,500 teachers, or local government's total net revenue expenditure on roads, transport, sport and culture.

Morrison said: "There are many areas in which local and Scottish Government work together for our communities, and I fully appreciate that money is extremely tight – all governments are having to cope with rising inflation and fuel costs.

"However, with little room left to manoeuvre, the Scottish Government's spending plans as they stand will see council services either significantly reduced, cut or stopped altogether."

The call comes as efforts continue to reach a new pay deal with teachers. That dispute comes after non-teaching and other public sector staff employed by councils accepted wage rises.

Cosla says staff will "quite rightly" expect a pay rise in 2023 and each additional one per cent adds around £100m on a recurring basis. 

Its vice-president Steven Heddle said the sector is "on extremely dangerous ground" amidst rising inflation and fuel costs. He stated: "Make no mistake, what we will now face is councils struggling to deliver even the basic, essential services that communities rely on."

The directors of finance across Scottish councils have written to Swinney to deliver an "SOS call" to "save our services".

It calls on the Scottish Government to resist any attempt to "claw back" any funding that local authorities are reliant on, and says this would cause "serious issues" for communities, stating: "It will mean less money for school food, classroom support, family support, youth work, economic development, libraries and other key services that are critical to supporting the most vulnerable."

Swinney confirmed more than £1bn of "savings" in his emergency budget review last month.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: "The Scottish Government recognises the crucial role councils and their employees play in our communities across Scotland and the challenging financial circumstances they face.

"The Scottish Government’s settlements from the UK Government have suffered a decade of austerity with average real terms cuts of over five per cent equating to a loss of £18bn. Despite this, local authority revenue funding is £2.2bn or 22.9 per cent higher in cash terms in the current financial year than it was in 2013-14.

"Future spending decisions will be outlined as part of the 2023-24 Scottish Budget on 15 December."

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