The Accounts Commission is 100% correct in its analysis that new councillors elected in May face major challenges – COSLA President Councillor David O’Neill said today (Tuesday).
Commenting on their 2017 overview report published today, the COSLA President also said that he was only too well aware of the long-term decline in Scottish Government real terms funding for Councils in recent years.
Councillor O’Neill said: “There have been various presentations and misrepresentations of the local government budget over the last couple of years which we feel are not only confusing to communities but also significantly damaging to the role of local government.
“The truth of the matter is that over 2016/17 and 2017/18 local government has seen a £550m reduction in its settlement and that is the budget reality. Councils are doing all they can to mitigate the impact of these cuts on communities.
“On better long term planning, both COSLA and Audit Scotland have highlighted on numerous occasions the real difficulties one year settlements from the Scottish Government pose us. Again the report is right longer term planning is essential to reshape and redesign services not only in light of the cuts but also the increasing demand for services.
“Despite challenging financial circumstances councils continue to prioritise spend in front line services and the vast majority of productivity, output and outcome measures within Councils have improved.
“In conclusion - I think it is a fair criticism in relation to better involvement of communities and hopefully this is something that we can build on positively post the May local government elections. However, it is missing a crucial point to suggest that the responsibility for this lies solely with local government. To realise true efficiencies and have much greater public involvement we need to look more broadly with joined up longer term planning across the whole of the public sector - because it is that which will make the real difference to both individuals and communities.”