Council cuts Scotland: Council warns of bailout risk as Scottish Government accused of pushing local authorities 'beyond breaking point'

The grave warning about the state of finances has been made by Falkirk Council

Scottish ministers have been accused of pushing councils “beyond breaking point”, as one local authority warned there was a risk of external advisers having to step in and take it over due to extreme financial pressures.

Falkirk Council is set to meet this Wednesday to discuss controversial plans to axe up to 33 school buses in the face of a budget gap of more than £60 million over the next five years.

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The authority issued a grave warning in a report ahead of the meeting, conceding: “Unless significant steps are taken to address this, the council will not be able to balance its budget, and there is a risk that the Scottish Government would appoint external advisers to take over leadership of the organisation – with limited accountability to local elected members.”

Falkirk Council will meet to discuss the proposed cuts on Wednesday. Picture: Michael GillenFalkirk Council will meet to discuss the proposed cuts on Wednesday. Picture: Michael Gillen
Falkirk Council will meet to discuss the proposed cuts on Wednesday. Picture: Michael Gillen

The council’s plan would see around 1,000 school pupils across Falkirk lose their entitlement to a free school bus pass. Around 600 more would be affected by the withdrawal of services.

Scottish Conservative local government spokesperson Liz Smith said: “The funding crisis facing local authorities like Falkirk Council is the direct result of years of brutal SNP cuts to local authority budgets.

“It is clear like many of their counterparts, Falkirk have been stretched beyond breaking point and now cannot guarantee they will be able to deliver core services.

“In this case, it is young people who are going to pay the price for the chronic underfunding by SNP-Green ministers. It is time the SNP-Green Government stopped passing the buck to councils and back the Scottish Conservatives repeated calls to give them a fair funding deal.”

Kenneth Lawrie, Falkirk Council's chief executive, said it was not in a unique position, with some local authorities in Scotland facing a tougher financial outlook and others slightly better.

He said: "The report's warning refers to what could happen if we don't take difficult decisions and that is a position that is not unique to this council. Some are in a worse position and some better.

"This is a warning about what could happen if we don't take difficult decisions about council tax, service savings, and fees and charges.”

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A massive shortfall in Highland Council’s budget estimated at between £46m and £70m has led to fears of widespread redundancies.

The local authority was forced to shelve plans earlier this month to build four new primary schools amid ongoing delays to a Scottish Government funding announcement.

Scotland on Sunday reported last month that councils across Scotland were set to make more than £300m in cuts this year, sparking warnings from Unison that some would not be able to provide even basic services.

An analysis by the BBC’s shared data unit found 29 Scottish councils intended to make savings in 2023/24. The savings were worth a combined £302.2m, with the steepest cuts being made by Aberdeen City Council, which has identified £43.4m of savings – the equivalent of 8 per cent of its net budget.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The public sector across the UK is facing ongoing budget pressures as a result of UK Government austerity and the Scottish Government acknowledges the financial challenges facing councils.

“The Scottish Government has a long history of working together with local authorities and bodies such as Cosla to make sure council finances are sustainable and that available resources can meet long-term financing commitments.”



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