Local government can't continue to be the “poor relation” of the public sector – COSLA

Written by Kate Shannon on 28 November 2017 in News

COSLA was responding a report which said funding has been reduced while costs and demands have increased

Money: Picture credit - PA

Local government cannot continue to be the “poor relation” of the public sector, according to Scotland’s council umbrella body.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) was responding an Accounts Commission report published today, which said funding has been reduced while costs and demands have increased, and more councils are using reserves to fund services.

The commission warned that local authorities are showing increasing signs of financial stress and face even tougher challenges ahead.

Responding to the report, COSLA’s resources spokesperson Councillor Gail Macgregor said: “The Accounts Commission is correct.

“Councils are showing increasing signs of financial stress and face even tougher challenges ahead.

“Indeed, it is only tough choices and prudent financial management that have allowed us to continue to deliver for communities despite the difficulties.

 “As I said when we launched our Fair Funding for Essential Services document, enough is enough. 

“Scottish local government cannot continue to be the poor relation of the Scottish public sector and there really is no more room for manoeuvre.

“Year on year challenges have forced councils to make difficult choices and cut services.

“That is why we are asking that in the 2018/19 [Scottish Government] budget there is adequate and fair funding for all local government services and hopefully today’s case set out by Scotland’s financial watchdog will add some weight to our case.”

Don Peebles, head of devolved nations at CIPFA Scotland said the Accounts Commission’s “sobering report” demonstrates the financial stress that Scottish councils are under.

He added: “Given that more and more councils in Scotland are having to use their reserves to try and alleviate the funding pressures they are facing, we agree with the Accounts Commission that there are big question marks over the financial resilience of a significant number of local authorities.

“This should be a warning to both the Scottish Government and local authorities that they must continue with efforts to put the sector on a more sustainable footing.”

Scottish Labour economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie said the report that lays bare the “impact of Tory and SNP austerity” on local authorities.

“After a decade of SNP government in Holyrood, our councils are at breaking point with rapidly shrinking budgets and sky-high debts,” she said.

Local government spokesperson for the Scottish Greens Andy Wightman said the findings make it difficult for Derek Mackay to dismiss demands for the forthcoming draft budget to include protection for public services and a real terms pay rise.

He added: “The challenge facing Derek Mackay will be in constructing an income tax proposal which meets multiple needs and raises enough revenue to deliver on promises like a real terms pay rise, without raiding local services to pay for it, and without hitting low earners who are already struggling.”

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