Local democracy

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Your editorial comments on local government funding (7 Oct-ober) are somewhat misleading.

While it is true that total expenditure will grow by 1.1 per cent overall, that is driven by a 41 per cent increase in capital spending on new projects.

Resource grants, which fund current services, are being cut 2.9 per cent overall, or £280.5 million.

In addition, the £70m per annum funding the council tax freeze is ringfenced within the reduced resource grants, which means councils will have to make a further £140m savings to secure freeze support funding.

In total, then, councils face £420m of savings on their revenue budgets over two years, a real cut of 4.2 per cent compared with a Scottish average of 2.2 per cent.

This will add further to the 40,000 posts lost in local government under the council tax freeze, from a total loss in the devolved public sector of 39,000.

Central government has given preferential treatment to its own agencies. (Statistics Publication Notice, 11/11/13, Table 4)

The former adviser to the finance committee was right when he observed that local services had “borne the brunt” of public sector cuts. Local government has shed 12.6 per cent of its staff under the austerity agenda, reducing incomes and economic demand, thereby hampering recovery.

It is time Scottish ministers adopted a sustainable approach to local government finance, with a framework of fiscal autonomy to restore local democracy.

(Prof) Arthur Midwinter

Raleigh Court