COSLA’s Finance Spokesperson Councillor Kevin Keenan said that he was very pleased with the recognition from the Accounts Commission that Scotland’s councils had managed their finances well and added that as auditors for the public sector in Scotland they were right to flag up the significant financial challenges that lie ahead.

Speaking in response to the publication of the Accounts Commission Overview report today Tuesday Councillor Keenan said; “Today’s report is pleasing in terms of the recognition for the excellent job Councils have done in managing their finances and coping with the demand on services at the same time as well as a reduced resource from the centre.

“There is no doubt that despite difficult settlements from the Scottish Government, Councils have managed their finances well but significant challenges lie ahead in maintaining this.”

Councillor Keenan went on: “Unlike many other parts of the public sector, Scotland’s Councils have by law to set a balanced budget.

“As today’s report recognises yet again councils have remained within their overall budgets, in addition they have increased their reserves ever so slightly and, the icing on the cake if you like, reduced their debt in 2015/16.

“This is all the more incredible when you see the demand on council services as the austerity agenda starts to bite - Councils are the protectors of the most needy and vulnerable in Society.

“Obviously, individual councils have their own priorities and their own challenges but all councils are faced with the twin dilemma of increased demand for services and diminishing resources.

Councillor Keenan continued: “As the report recognises - The Scottish Government provides around 60 per cent of the total income for a Council. Sadly, over the past six years, up to and including 2016/17, Scottish Government funding (revenue and capital) for councils has fallen by over 8 per cent in real terms.

“We all know the direction of travel for public sector finances.  Indeed, the report actually warns of further reductions in funding for councils from central government while demand on council services, particularly social care, continues to rise.

"Whilst councils and Councillors do their best to mitigate the damage to communities from political choices made at the centre this is becoming harder and harder to do. Also it is virtually impossible to set medium and long-term financial plans based on short term funding and yearly budgets from Scottish Government. “

Article published: 
Tue, 29/11/2016 - 08:50