Scottish councils’ biggest spends on education and social work

1 Mar 18

The latest analysis of Scottish local government finances has shown that education and social work accounted for the bulk of council spending last financial year.

Together the two areas of spend made up around three quarters of the £10.01bn net cost of local authority services in Scotland.

According to the annual overview for 2016-17, which is based on councils’ final audited accounts, education was the biggest area of spending, with net revenue expenditure at £4.83bn, up 2% on the previous year.

The second largest area was social work, with net revenue expenditure at £3.14bn. That figure was down 1.1% on the previous year due to the introduction of integration joint boards, under which an increasing proportion of social care expenditure is funded through health boards.   

Both education and social work have seen historic growth in expenditure. Since 2012-13, net revenue expenditure on social work increased across Scotland by 5.9%, and education by 5.6%. Expenditure on environmental services also rose by 5.6%.

However, other services fared less well, with spend on planning and development services plummeting by 15.7% over the same period. Roads and transport saw a fall of 12.7%, while expenditure on culture and related services dropped by 5.4%.

Councils also raised more than in previous years by charging for their services. The amount of general fund income raised from local authority services was £1.37bn, up 7.1% since 2012-13, with receipts from social care at £263m and central services at £243m.  

The Scottish Government said it was the second year in a row that education spending had increased in real terms.

Deputy first minister John Swinney said closing the attainment gap was the government’s top priority.

“Every child should have the best possible start in life, no matter their background,” he said.

“Schools have a significant role to play in ensuring every child is given the right support to help them achieve their full potential and so I very much welcome this increase by local authorities.”

However, a spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said the underlying picture was a challenging one for local government, with the funding councils received from the Scottish Government having dropped from £7.8bn to £6.8bn over the last six years.

“What we can see quite starkly is that the general revenue funding has been decreasing since 2012-13 and this trend is continuing,” he said.

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