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by Louise Wilson
21 December 2023
Scottish budget will cause ‘cuts in every community’, Cosla warns

Humza Yousaf and Cosla president Shona Morrison signed a landmark partnership agreement earlier this year | PA/Alamy

Scottish budget will cause ‘cuts in every community’, Cosla warns

Councils will be put at “real and significant financial risk” in the coming year if the Scottish Government’s budget is passed as it stands, council umbrella body Cosla has warned.

Following a meeting of Cosla leaders on Thursday, the body has said the funding being offered to local authorities will result in “cuts in every community in Scotland” as well as job losses across local government.

Cosla president Shona Morrison said: “Cosla’s initial analysis shows a real-terms cut to our revenue and capital spending power which will leave council services at breaking point, with some having to stop altogether.

“The budget in its current form could result in service cuts, job losses and an inevitable shift to providing statutory services only. This means potentially losing libraries, leisure centres and all the things that improve our lives.”

The body is calling for “urgent discussions” with ministers to negotiate changes to the budget before it is formally presented to parliament in legislation.

Ministers will lay the Budget Bill in the new year, with MSPs considering it throughout January and February.

Ahead of finance secretary Shona Robison’s statement on Tuesday, Cosla had warned that not providing sufficient funding councils would result in cuts.

Particular concern had been expressed about the Scottish Government’s insistence on a council tax freeze, preventing local authorities from raising more money for services locally.

Robison said the government was offering an additional £140m to councils to implement the freeze, the equivalent of a five per cent increase to the local tax.

But some had reportedly been considering an increase of up to ten per cent.

Cosla estimates councils are facing a revenue shortfall of £95m in 2024-25, not including the cost of a council tax freeze, and a capital shortfall of £99.5m.

It said fully funding the freeze could cost up to £300m, more than double what has been provided by ministers.

The finance secretary said earlier this week that it was a “fair offer” and the total £14bn going to local government was a “record level of funding”.

Speaking on The Week in Holyrood, First Minister Humza Yousaf said Cosla was being offered a “significant uplift” and “more flexibility” in how councils spend cash.

He said: “I don't think I have ever in the history of devolution seen a budget take place where Cosla says that's enough money, thanks very much. That is the nature of the budget process and of course we've still got a way to go, so we'll keep working with Cosla.”

The Scottish Conservatives said Cosla's reaction was “entirely justified".

Finance spokesperson Liz Smith said: “Once again, our councils have been treated with contempt by an SNP government that expects them to work miracles. This brutal underfunding cannot continue.”

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