Funding call to Minister

Wednesday 12 February 2020

More money for local government and an end to the cuts agenda, that’s the call from Inverclyde Council leader to Scotland’s Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy following the publication of the Scottish budget.

In a letter to Kate Forbes MSP, Councillor Stephen McCabe, Leader of Inverclyde Council, has supported the call by COSLA for a fair funding settlement for councils.

Councillor McCabe said: “I have written to the Minister after she presented the Scottish budget to parliament seeking support for the COSLA call for more funding for all Scottish councils and highlighting the potential cuts here in Inverclyde.

“In this time when so many national voices are calling out the Scottish Government budget around its lack of fair funding or investment for core local government services it is important that councils make our voices heard.

“The early indications from the budget were that the hidden cuts were being masked by announcements of large investment figures. The reality has been exposed by COSLA that councils are getting less than half of what they said they needed and that the budget reality is extra commitments from the Scottish Government mean real terms cuts in both revenue and capital funding.

“The picture in Inverclyde is a funding reduction of £900,000 and a budget gap of £2m and a huge 22 per cent reduction in capital funding totalling £1.9m.

“That’s why I am calling on the Minister to fully fund COSLA’s call for fair funding for core local government budgets to deliver our essential services.”

In a statement by COSLA President, Councillor Alison Evison she said: “A cut of a significant proportion is the Budget Reality that our Communities now face - a cut to services, a cut to local jobs, a cut to the work councils do to tackle child poverty and respond to climate change.

“In addition to the cuts – it is also extremely disappointing that we have seen no money for inflation or any other of the significant pressures we face, such as restoration for cuts to our funding in previous years. COSLA will be raising these issues with the Scottish Government and all parties across the Parliament at the earliest opportunity to ensure this picture is rectified as part of the budget scrutiny process. It is our communities and the priorities of tacking child poverty, wellbeing, climate change and inclusive growth that will suffer.

“Things cannot go on in this manner. I am really concerned that more and more of what Local Government does is directed by the centre. As a result of the Scottish Government commitments that Local Government has to deliver we are no longer able to respond to local priorities.”

LETTER TO KATE FORBES MSP:

Dear Kate,

I wanted to get in touch to let you know what Inverclyde Council’s ask is of the local government settlement in this budget and to support my colleague Alison Evison in the COSLA view of what local government needs from this budget.

We have been consistent in seeking an increase in the core funding of councils and unfortunately, the budget you presented does not deliver that.

It promotes increases in spending while masking hidden cuts.

I hope the coming days and weeks are a real opportunity to reflect on the strong case being made by COSLA and many others to start the job this year of finally binning austerity and reversing the ongoing cuts agenda.

No amount of spin can mask the hidden cuts of £212m COSLA has highlighted to local government’s core budget including £117m to the core capital budget and £95m to revenue.

COSLA asked for £1,007m in additional funding and received less than half that.  A revenue shortfall of £512m.

COSLA asked for £157m additional funding for capital spending and received, again, less than half that with a shortfall of £103m.

In Inverclyde, we have seen real cuts to funding.  According to The Scottish Parliament’s research service, SPICE, report Local government finance: facts and figures 2013-14 to 2019-20 published in July 2019 Inverclyde Council received a reduction in funding of £8m in real terms, the equivalent of £104 for every resident in the past six years.

The Council was working on the basis of a £6.7m funding gap in 2020/21 of which £1m would be due to a like for like cash reduction in the revenue grant. Analysis of the figures you announced last week indicate a cash reduction approximately £900,000 greater than this and therefore, despite having already reduced the estimated funding gap to £2million  we will now require to seriously consider greater cuts to key services.

Among the cuts and reductions to services are reduction in teacher numbers, reducing our under 19 sports grants and our grants to voluntary organisations.  The potential cuts also include our employability funding, closing community centres, reducing our community learning and development (CLD) service and community warden staff.

We could also be introducing new charges for under 16 swimming or restricting it to school holidays only, reducing long term care placements for older people and adults and reducing our school music and library services.

All cuts to service will affect part of our community and can be avoided if the cuts agenda is stopped, austerity reversed and local government across Scotland gets the investment budget it needs.

Our share of the national cut to capital funding is £1.9m (22%).  As capital budgets are considered over a multi-year period, this unexpected cut will require a fundamental review of our investment plans.  This could affect our continued commitment to improving our school estate, roads network, parks and leisure facilities including our support for a new indoor tennis facility, a national priority to nurture and grow the sport across Scotland.

On behalf of the people of Inverclyde, can I add my voice to the many who are calling on you to fully fund COSLA’s call for fair funding for core local government to deliver our essential services.

On a related but separate note, you may have noticed recently that Greenock Town Centre was highlighted as Scotland’s ‘most deprived’ area in the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) figures.  Through correspondence with one of our local MSPs it emerged that the former Finance Secretary had proposed ‘special case’ funding to support our area.

Can I ask you to confirm the commitment made by the previous Finance Secretary and that this will continue to be honoured and to arrange a senior member of Government to meet with my colleague Councillor Clocherty to confirm the mechanism for making this ‘special case’ funding bid outwith the current year settlement to support all of our datazones highlighted in this SIMD report?

Yours

Stephen

Page last updated: 12 February 2020