Scottish Government ‘overlooking’ funding for unprotected council services

Cosla says local authorities such as Glasgow are being forced to cut back unprotected services
Cosla says local authorities such as Glasgow are being forced to cut back unprotected services
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Local authority body Cosla has accused the Scottish Government of choosing to overlook funding for unprotected council services.

n a plea for more cash in this year’s Scottish budget, the organisation has warned increased ring-fencing means damage from cuts has been “amplified”.

Cosla said 60% of its funding must go towards specific schemes, leaving services such as public transport, sports facilities and environmental health at greater risk from cuts.

Cosla’s resource spokeswoman Gail Macgregor said: “Cosla’s vision is that Scotland’s communities are sustainable, vibrant places to live, work and visit.

“Every year, councils invest in a huge range of services and capital projects that are key drivers for economic growth.

“However, ring-fencing and Scottish Government-devised policy initiatives mean that more and more has to be delivered from an ever-decreasing portion of local budgets.

“The reality is that services such as roads, buses, paths, planning, community learning, events, sports facilities, libraries, tourism, business support and environmental health all sit unprotected.”

She added: “These services are what make our communities attractive places to live, work and visit.

“Local government’s role in creating sustainable communities cannot continue to be underestimated.”

In a brochure produced by Cosla for its Invest in Essential Services campaign, it cites research showing overall local government funding has dropped by 7% since 2013-14, compared to the 2% reduction in Scottish Government’s total revenue funding.

Local government currently receives a 33% share of the Scottish budget, down from 34.7% in 2013-14, it adds.

Cosla president Alison Evison said: “Local government is the sphere of government closest to Scotland’s citizens.

“Sadly, however, whichever way you want to dress it up, the reality is that in recent budgets the Scottish Government has chosen to overlook the essential services that communities rely on day in, day out.

“Our vision for Scotland’s communities depends on fair funding for council services.

“If we are to truly realise Scotland’s potential then local authorities must receive a fair settlement.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The failure of the UK Government to publish its budget at an earlier time means we do not have clarity on the funding available for our schools, hospitals and other vital public services.

“Despite this, we remain focused on introducing a Scottish budget for 2020-21 at the earliest practical opportunity, and are in discussions with Cosla on how we can support their budget process.

“Despite further cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government, we have ensured our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement - delivering a funding package of £11.2 billion for all local authorities in 2019-20, which is a real terms increase of more than £310 million.

“While ring-fenced funding is for increased investment in services such as our schools and nurseries, local authorities have complete autonomy to allocate over 92% - £10.3 billion - of the funding we provide, plus all locally raised income.

“Decisions on budget allocations for future years are subject to the outcome of the current negotiations with Cosla.

“The results will be confirmed as part of the Budget in due course.”

In response, a HM Treasury spokesman said: “Nothing stops the Scottish Parliament from passing their budget before the UK Budget.

“We are working with the Scottish Government as part of an agreed process to provide the information they need to prepare their budget.

“The Spending Round provided the biggest day-to-day funding settlement for Scotland in a decade, with the Scottish Government’s block grant increasing by £1.2 billion in 2020-21.”