Scottish councils call for funding certainty

21 Feb 18

Scottish councils have called for greater certainty over local government funding in the future to allow them to deal with long term pressures such as pay.

Local government secured an additional £170m in the course of budget negotiations between the minority SNP government and the Scottish Greens.

However, with the budget expected to gain final parliamentary approval later today, councils warned that single year financial settlements were no longer sustainable.

Gail Macgregor, resources spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said the financial pressures faced by local government meant councils needed multi-year settlements to be able to plan ahead.

“As a sector, Scottish local government needs the confidence and assurance that long term sustainable funding helps bring,” she said. “The simple truth is that we have had enough of short termism by way of one year funding deals from Scottish Government.

“As councils work hard to set their budgets at this time of financial challenge and real terms cuts, COSLA seeks to secure certainty around funding for the future.

“There remain significant financial challenges and tough decisions ahead for councils that cannot go unanswered.”

Pay was a major issue, she said, with the lifting of the public sector pay cap raising the salary expectations of local government workers.

Councils were now facing claims of up to 6.5% from the general workforce and 10% from teachers, she added.

“Unless we get the stability that longer term sustainable funding brings it makes committing to pay deals and other major financial commitments very problematic for us,” said Macgregor.

But speaking ahead of the stage three budget debate, finance secretary Derek Mackay said the budget offered a fair deal for councils and protection for public services.

“It ensures our partners in local government will receive a real-terms increase in funding to more than £10.5 billion,” he said.

“This fair funding settlement is in addition to any changes to council tax local authorities may pursue.

“I believe these actions, alongside our progressive tax proposals, will make Scotland a more attractive place to live and work and delivers a stronger economy and a fairer society.”

The case for multi-year budgets has been backed by Holyrood’s local government and communities committee, which last month called on the government to provide indicative revenue funding figures for local government over the remainder of the parliamentary session.

The approach councils were forced to take to annual budgets was not conducive to good financial planning and could hinder the essential redesign of services, it warned. 

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