The Scottish Government has failed to respond in its Budget (published on 15th December) in any meaningful way to COSLA’s SOS calls. This means that Councils are left at real financial risk for the coming year, and it will be the people of Scotland and our communities who suffer as a result.
Following a full meeting of Council Leaders today (Friday 16th December) COSLA said it was extremely disappointed that once again Local Government and the essential services it delivers have not been prioritised by the Scottish Government in yesterday’s budget announcement.
Council Leaders also expressed their extreme disappointment with the settlement for Local Government and with its presentation which lacks consistency with a partnership approach.
As part of offering up a solution, Leaders called on the Scottish Government to pause the current plans for structural change required to set up the National Care Service and redirect the funding allocated within the Scottish Budget into social care and preventative services through Local Government.
Speaking this afternoon COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson Councillor Katie Hagmann said: “Council Services will now be at absolute breaking point and some may have to stop altogether.
“This is a result of cuts to our Councils’ core budgets and direction on spend towards other Scottish Government priorities over the last few years. Yesterday’s budget announcement compounds this and there is a real risk that many of our essential services will not only be cut but may have to stop altogether.
“Council Leaders were unanimous today that we need to work together, with one Local Government voice, to raise our concerns at the highest level.
“The Fraser of Allander Institute has already commented on the settlement stating that although Scottish Government has presented a cash increase for Local Government, Councils will see a “real-terms decrease relative to a GDP deflator of 4.9%.”
COSLA President Councillor Shona Morrison added: “The reality of the situation is that yet again, the essential services Councils deliver have not been prioritised by the Scottish Government. COSLA asked for £1bn but from our initial assessment of the Budget, we believe that Local Government will see an uplift of only £71m once policy commitments are taken into account. Whilst the decision to allow councils the freedom to set their own council tax rates is welcomed, scope will be extremely limited this year, as councils seek to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, recognising the cost-of-living crisis.
COSLA Vice President Councillor Steven Heddle said: “Yes, money is tight, but Scottish Government has made political choices. Cuts to our core budget hit the most vulnerable in our communities the hardest and are damaging to our workforce – Scottish Government needs to consider this seriously. That is why Council Leaders were unanimous today that we must fight for a fairer settlement.”