Vital council services will face cuts unless funding improves, says Cosla

Crucial services such as road maintenance, libraries and youth work will face cuts unless council finances are placed on a sustainable footing, Scotland's most senior councillor has warned.

Alison Evison, the president of council umbrella body Cosla, said local authorities "can't keep giving all the things that are needed without something drastic having to change".

She said there had been “year-on-year” pressures on local government.

Cosla previously warned councils face a £251 million real terms cut in the coming year, which could increase by a further £120 million next year.

Libraries are under threat of financial cuts. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA

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Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Ms Evison said: “It gets to the stage where you have to start cutting services. There's no other option.

"That's the pressure we're under at the moment.”

She said changing demographics, the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic had piled more pressure on councils.

She added: "All in all, it leads to a time where you can't keep giving.

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Alison Evison

"Councils can't keep giving all the things that are needed without something drastic having to change, and that change will be at the expense of our communities.

"So yes, the pressure on council budgets is real, and the impact on our communities is also real, and it's not sustainable going forward."

Cosla hopes a new “fiscal framework” with the Scottish Government will provide more certainty and transparency going forward.

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Asked about the situation if nothing changes, Ms Evison said: "The real impact would be, quite simply, the reduction of services – the reduction of services that people rely on.

"There is a small proportion of the council budget that councils have flexibility over and obviously it would be found from that section. Cuts would have to be taken.

"Things that communities rely on - it's your road maintenance that people want, it's your libraries, your cultural services, it's your youth work.

"They're the areas of the council budget that would be at risk if council finances are unsustainable going forward.

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"People talk about making local government more efficient – those efficiencies have been taken. That's been looked at over the piece.

"We're at the stage now that without sustainable funding for local government, savings from areas that people want to retain would be the areas that would be in danger."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are treating councils fairly and providing a real terms increase of 6.3 per cent to local authority budgets.

“This comes against a cut to the Scottish Government’s overall budget of 5.2 per cent in real terms, due primarily to UK government funding reductions.

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“Funding for local government in future years will be determined as part of the Scottish Government’s current resource spending review.

“As set out in the Programme for Government, we are committed to establishing a working group with representation from the Scottish Green Party, and engaging with Cosla, to oversee the development of effective deliberative engagement on sources of local government funding, including council tax.

“This work will culminate in a citizens’ assembly. We will set timescales for completion of this work within the current parliamentary session.”

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