Council spending decisions increasingly directed by ministers, says Cosla

The body that represents Scotland’s councils has said the spending decisions of local authorities are “increasingly directed” by the Scottish Government.

Cosla also criticised ministers for confusing the public with their messaging.

It previously hit out at the £38 million cash increase allocated to councils in the draft Scottish Budget, despite local authorities facing £1 billion of financial pressures.

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Katie Hagmann, Cosla’s resources spokeswoman and an SNP councillor, said: “Given the significance of our council services to the lives and livelihoods of everyone across Scotland, communities deserve clear and consistent facts in relation to local government finance rather than a yearly debate on how much money is or is not available.”

Cosla represents Scotland's councils
Cosla represents Scotland's councils
Cosla represents Scotland's councils

She added: “For 2023/24, the Scottish Government has stated that councils have seen a ‘£570m increase in their budgets’, but the reality is that only £38 million of this can go towards pressures such as inflation, pay and service demand, with the rest for policy commitments that are already in the system, for example £100 million to meet real living wage commitments in social care.”

Ms Hagmann said Cosla’s key concerns “are not only the socially harmful impact of cuts on our communities, but the way in which local government finance has been presented to them”.

She said: “The messaging is that there is more money for essential services each year despite this not being the case, with councils asking communities about where they want to see cuts and reductions if essential services, like schools, roads, waste collection, child and adult protection, environmental health and social care are to continue to be delivered, every day of every year.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said its settlements from the UK Government “have suffered a decade of austerity with average real terms cuts of over 5 per cent, equating to a loss of £18 billion”.

He added: “Despite this, we have listened to councils and are increasing the resources available to local government by over £570 million, a real terms increase of £160.6m or 1.3 per cent. We’re also maintaining £591 million revenue from the NHS to integration authorities to ensure improved outcomes on health and social care. And local government funding will also receive allocations from within other Scottish Government portfolios.”



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