The number of staff working in Scotland’s councils has fallen to its lowest level since devolution, prompting fresh fears over lifeline services being “stripped back”.
Fewer than 200,000 Scots now work in local government, a fall of more than 30,000 over the past decade, as public satisfaction falls in services like local schooling, social care and bin collections.
The Scottish Government is now facing calls to undertake an urgent investigation into the impact of the cuts on vulnerable Scots to see how they contribute to growing poverty levels. Councils have suffered a near 10 per cent cut in their budget since the turn of the decade, a stark report by the Accounts Commission warned last week, with reductions in school staff and across other services.
In 1999 there were 210,000 local government employees, excluding police and fire staff. This grew to 230,000 in 2007 before the financial crash hit and the climate of austerity emerged, with numbers since falling to 198,000, a 14 per cent drop.
Labour communities spokeswoman Monica Lennon said that ministers should be ensuring that “vital local services that people rely on are properly resourced”.
But she warned: “Instead, the SNP government has taken Tory austerity and passed it straight on to Scottish councils and the communities they serve.
“Council services are crucial in the fight against poverty and inequality and these job losses hurt the poorest the hardest with lifeline services stripped back year after year because of the cuts.”
The Scottish Government says the £10.7 billion budgets which councils will receive from Holyrood this year will deliver a real terms increase.
A spokeswoman said: “In spite of continued UK government real terms cuts to Scotland’s resource budget, we have treated local government very fairly.
“In addition, as all 32 local authorities have chosen to use their powers to increase council tax, by the maximum allowable 3 per cent, they now have an overall increase in the funds at their disposal of almost £342 million compared with 2017-18.
“Staffing levels for local government are matters for individual local authorities. However local government employment has increased by 720 (0.3 per cent) over the year to December 2017, with 18 local authorities increasing staffing levels.”