COSLA has today (Tuesday) highlighted to the Scottish Government a massive contradiction in relation to Scottish Education and council funding.
This is following an emergency meeting of Council Leaders on Friday and ahead of a Parliamentary statement today.
At Friday’s meeting Council Leaders reacted with great disappointment to the Scottish Government’s cutting of Local Government’s funding on the one hand whilst at the same time legislating/intervening to prevent headlines showing the unpalatable consequences of those cuts.
Councils are unanimous that attainment is not just about teacher numbers, especially in areas where school rolls are declining, and depends also on a wide range of other council services and support staff. Accordingly, councils must be left with the flexibility to manage their inadequate budgets to minimise the impact on attainment and the other services the public depend upon. To do more than this will require the Scottish Government to provide additional funding, not more restriction.
Council leaders were clear that Local Government wants to protect education. Councils want to continue to improve the attainment and achievement of children and young people, whilst also retaining the teachers and support staff that are required to do this. It’s the Budget which is putting these things at risk, not Local Government.
COSLA said that the reality is that Scottish Government Budgets over a decade have left us with a funding crisis in Local Government the likes of which have never been seen before.
Commenting today in a joint statement COSLA’s Presidential Team said: “The timing and approach of the Scottish Government’s latest move undermines the democratic mandate of Local Government and is a U-turn on previously agreed flexibilities for councils over their budgets.
“It is not the case that Local Government wants to cut any of our services; we have to work with the budgets we have and unless there is more funding, we are forced to make democratic decisions on priorities for the communities we serve.
“On the one hand our budgets have been cut in real terms, and on the other hand the Scottish Government is intervening with additional policies which means significant cuts will have to be made in other areas that support children, young people, families and our communities.
“We have been clear about the limited options facing Local Government because of the Scottish Government’s Budget for 2023/24, a view which is shared by the independent body Accounts Commission. We have also highlighted the impact of the initial proposed interventions on other Local Government services, including those which directly support the attainment, health and wellbeing of children and young people.
“These latest asks and the Government’s narrative demonstrates a Government who does not fully value and respect Local Government's role. Asks of this nature are addressing a symptom, not the cause.”