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The Accounts Commission’s Local Government in Scotland Financial bulletin for 2022/23 published today (Tuesday) reinforces COSLA’s warnings over the perilous state of Council finances over the last few years.

“Commenting, COSLA’s Resources Spokesperson Councillor Katie Hagmann said:  “The Accounts Commission’s Local Government in Scotland Financial bulletin for 2022/23, published today, reinforces what we have been saying about council finances and the really difficult and challenging decisions Councils have had to take in recent years.

“It is vitally important that these concerns, which have been consistently raised by COSLA, are now being backed up by hard facts and evidence presented by the Accounts Commission.

“There is widespread agreement from COSLA on the Accounts Commission’s key messages on the scale and financial challenge facing Scotland’s Councils, as well as the most pressing issues facing councils now.

“Some of these key messages, whilst extremely stark, come as no great surprise to those of us in Local Government.

  • In 2022/23 total revenue funding from all sources fell by £619 million (2.8 per cent) in real terms to £21.3 billion compared to 2021/22.
  • An increasing proportion of funding is ring-fenced or provided with the expectation it will be spent on specific services.
  • There is pressure on capital budgets, and this presents risks to the viability of local government capital programmes, many of which impact on key services (e.g., the construction and maintenance of schools, libraries, roads).
  • Councils are increasingly having to rely on savings and reserves as well as making increasingly difficult decisions to reduce or stop services to help balance budgets.

“Today’s Accounts Commission Bulletin is a true reflection of where we are now.  Our reality right now is extremely challenging - years of real-terms cuts to council budgets have been coupled with increasing additional policy commitments and increased ring-fencing.  With so much funding still directed, the ability to take local decisions on most of our Budget is almost impossible.

Councillor Hagmann concluded: “The picture painted by the Accounts Commission illustrates why COSLA is lobbying hard on the detrimental impact to communities of the Draft Scottish Government Budget, currently going through the Parliamentary process.  The trends highlighted by the Bulletin are why Scotland’s Council Leaders are so disappointed and furthermore highlights the need to progress the ambitions of our joint Scottish Government and Local Government Verity House agreement. We must seek a solution to these long-term issues in order to protect the essential front-line service of our communities.

COSLA’s President, Vice President and Political Group Leaders, from all parties have written to the Deputy First Minister requesting that a meaningful negotiation takes place, to protect those who rely on essential services, support our local economies and continue to progress our net zero national ambitions.”