'˜Enough is enough' warn council chiefs in £545 million demand

Scotland's council leaders have issued a demand for half a billion pounds and warned that vital frontline services will suffer if the Scottish Government does not pay up.

Ministers say they have acted fairly. Picture: Getty

Children’s services, rubbish disposal, schools support and social care are among the areas which could be hit if an extra £545 million is not found by ministers, council body Cosla has warned today.

About £590 million has been cut from town hall budgets since 2012, the body claims, and Town Hall bosses have now warned “enough is enough.”

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Cosla president Alison Evison said: “Year on year challenges have forced councils to make difficult choices and cut services.

“We need a fair settlement for the year ahead. There really is no more room for manoeuvre.”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay will set out his budget for 2018/19 next month. But it comes after angry clashes with council leaders recent years over claims, disputed by the Scottish Government, that local budgets have faced swingeing cuts.

A paper published by Cosla today paints a bleak picture for services. Entitled Fair Funding for Essential Services, it reveals that 15,000 council staff have been axed across Scotland in the past five years as austerity cuts take their toll.

The prospect of more workers being axed is now on the cards, along with fresh rises in council tax and increased charging for services.

But the brunt of any funding shortfall is likely to be met by cuts to services.

Among the key areas set out in the paper are children’s services with 15,300 youngsters on the protection register, as well as areas of social work care. Affordable housing and efforts to tackle homelessness could also be squeezed, along with welfare advice and support at a time of rising debt levels.

Bin collections could also become less frequent to save cash, while facilities like libraries, leisure centres and museums could all come under pressure.

Education is also provided by councils, but teachers numbers are protected through an agreement with the Scottish Government and cannot be cut unless rolls fall. But school support services, such as classroom assistants, could be in danger.

Nicola Sturgeon has also pledged the lift the 1 per cent cap on public sector pay hikes which will also place fresh pressure on budgets.

Cosla’s Resources spokeswoman Gail Macgregor said: “Enough is enough, Scottish local government can no longer be the poor relation of the Scottish public sector.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government continues to treat local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK government. Councils are receiving funding through the local government finance settlement of more than £10.4 billion for 2017-18.

“Taken together with a range of other measures this amounts to £383m in additional support compared to 2016-17. Local council budgets for 2018-19 will be confirmed later this year.”

Mr Mackay will set out his budget to MSPs at Holyrood on 14 December.