Public service reform another missed opportunity in Scottish budget, says COSLA
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COSLA has today (Wednesday) described the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget as a missed opportunity for the communities of Scotland in the area of Public Service reform.

COSLA also added that Scotland’s Council Leaders, Councillors, the Local Government Workforce and communities should be treated with the respect they deserve demonstrated through investment, not cuts.

COSLA said:  “At a special meeting just before Christmas, there was dismay and frustration from Scotland’s Council Leaders about the way Local Government and the communities we represent had been treated in the Scottish Government’s Draft Budget.  As the Budget currently stands, communities will see and feel a range of negative impacts.

“COSLA’s ‘Councils are Key’ budget lobbying campaign set out the case for fair funding that would allow Local Government to deliver for the people of Scotland, particularly around delivering sustainable person-centred public services – one of the three shared priorities laid out in the Verity House Agreement.

“The response from the Scottish Government to our Budget ask is extremely disappointing and will mean that the potential that councils have to prevent problems occurring will be limited severely.

“The Budget as it stands leaves not a single penny for transformational Public Service Reform- there is very limited scope for a focus on ‘Spend to Save’.  The 2024/25 Budget shows a clear difference between the treatment of Local Government and other public bodies, with Local Government disproportionately impacted by cuts to capital funding.

“The impact of this move is to re-allocate capital funding away from preventative ‘upstream’ services carried out by Local Government to ‘downstream’ services carried out by our public sector partners, services that are more costly.  While we recognise that the Fire and Rescue Service, the Police Authority, and Prison Service are of the utmost importance to our communities, it is crucial that the Scottish Government recognises the clear long-term benefits associated with investment in Local Government and the buildings used every day by our communities like schools, libraries, community and sports centres.

“The Scottish Government has prioritised capital funding to the following public services from 23/24 to 24/25:

·       Prison: +72%

·       Fire: +31%

·       Courts: +28%

·       Police: +13%

·       NHS: +11%

·       Local Government: -21%

“The draft Budget also shows that Scottish Government’s internal costs have risen significantly from 23/24 to 24/25, equalling an increase of over £40 million in fiscal resource and capital. For example, internal budgets relating to “Response and Readiness” and “Corporate Running costs” have gone up by 42.5% and 12.2% respectively.

“This increase in internally allocated Scottish Government funding comes at a time when the growth of the Scottish Government workforce has regularly outstripped that of Local Government.

“A person-centred reform agenda based on prevention needs to be driven locally, where people are closest to and can take part in the decisions that affect them the most. Forcing change from the centre denies local people and communities the opportunity to shape the services in a way that best meet their needs and it disempowers those across our workforce to not what they do but how they do it.

COSLA’s President, Vice President and political Group Leaders from all parties have written to the Deputy First Minister and are seeking an urgent meeting.  Council Leaders will not let this lie, they simply cannot afford to because it will have such a detrimental impact on the communities they represent.”