Thousands of workers axed by Scotland's councils over past year

Thousands of workers have been axed by Scotland's councils over the past year, prompting fresh anger over Scottish Government funding cuts to town halls.

At the same time there has been a rise in the number of civil service staff employed directly by ministers, according to the latest official public sector employment statistics.

The SNP government has insisted that councils get a “very fair” deal, but opponents insist the figures show cuts are being passed on to frontline services with social care and school staff among those hit.

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The number of staff employed by Scotland’s councils dropped by 2,160 to 242,000 over the year March 2017. Town hall chiefs had been hit with a funding cut of £500 million cut to their budgets from the Scottish Government during this period, with fresh cuts on the way this year.

The number of workers across Scotland’s public sector, including the NHS and government, slumped by 3,370 over the year, to 543,000. This accounts for about one in five Scottish workers.

A spokesman for local government body Cosla said job losses have been an “ever present” for a number of years.

He added: “In the region of 60 per cent of the costs of providing council services is in the pay bill. When government cuts funds to councils, job losses are an inevitable consequence.

“Councils do everything possible to avoid compulsory redundancies as a means of achieving reductions in headcount but are now under more pressure than ever. Every job loss has human consequences, for some family and in some community. With local government suffering the lion’s share of job losses in the public sector in Scotland, it’s becoming ever harder to prevent that impact being felt on the front line where vital services are provided for all of society.”

But despite the dramatic fall across Scotland’s public sector workforce, the number of civil servants employed by the Scottish Government in its “core” directorates went up by 70.

Liberal Democrat business manager Mike Rumbles said: “These new figures belie 
any claims from the SNP 
that they are delivering a 
‘fair funding deal’ for local authorities. Staff are being cut and those remaining are 
being increasingly stretched.”

Direct council funding is also falling again this year by millions of pounds, but finance secretary Derek Mackay has said additional funding for local services like schools and health and social care partnerships more than makes up for this shortfall.

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the number of staff it employs directly has seen a “marginal increase” since 2012 while it has seen an increase in its functions and a real terms funding cut.

She insisted that local government has been treated “very fairly” despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from Westminster.