Scots frontline Coronavirus services at risk as councils face £100m black hole

Key Coronavirus services could be at risk without more cashKey Coronavirus services could be at risk without more cash
Key Coronavirus services could be at risk without more cash
Frontline services in the battle against Coronavirus like social care, Test and Protect and key worker hubs may be at risk without a major funding injection to keep them going, MSPs have been told.

Councils in Scotland are facing a £100 million black hole in their budgets as a result of the pandemic and this is likely to grow in the months ahead, local Government body COSLA warned today.

Town Halls across Scotland have also yet to receive a £155 million cash boost they are due which was provided to the Scottish Government from the UK Treasury in April, COSLA President Alison Evison told Holyrood's local government committee today

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Local councils have also been pivotal in delivering the "shielding" service which is aimed at protecting individuals at greatest risk from the pandemic, Ms Evison said.

They also provide essential services and have been at the heart of the COVID-19 response in areas like social care and the Test and Protect regime. In addition councils are responsible for getting schools up and running again, as well as retaining the key worker hubs, the COSLA President added.

"We cannot do this without extra funding - it just cannot be done," Ms Evison warned.

"So we need to carry on those talks with the Scottish Government, we need to work together with the UK Government as well and lobby for support from the UK Government at that level. Because otherwise we cannot deliver."

Prior to the pandemic, councils had already been experiencing major funding cuts, Ms Evison told the committee.

"The current crisis has only exasperated these challenges," she said.

Councils are facing a net additional cost of about £100 million until the end of June.

This takes into account the extra £80 million provided by the Scottish Government and £155 million of consequentials which have been committed to local government. She confirmed that councils have yet to receive the latter tranche of cash but that it has been promised by the end of the month.

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"The costs that are being gathered are being gathered constantly," Ms Evison added.

"This is an iterative process and that is the figures to date - I don't think we can leave it that that's what the final figure will be.

"There's huge funding pressures at the moment as councils are dealing with the pressures of delivering services, services that have to be delivered that are essential to people in our communities, but also we've got to bear in mind the income that councils are losing at the moment, in terms of services where they normally receive money from them are being closed at the moment."

This includes leisure centres and car park revenues which has resulted in a "huge amount of income" being lost from Town hall coffers.

In addition, flagship "transformation plans" in many council budgets which were delivering hundreds of millions of pounds of savings have had to be ditched.

"Obviously because of the pandemic all those budget savings are on hold as well, so it's a huge impact on council savings."

Councils are also precluded from using the Job Retention Scheme and with 70% of their costs on staff costs, it has left little room for manoeuvre

"To do their work local government must be properly resourced and must be empowered to take decisions at a local level,” Ms Evison added.

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"These have been exceptionally challenging times. Looking forward local government is committed to working in partnership with the Scottish Government, our third sector partners and local communities to build a better society."

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