Council leader backs national funding plea
THE leader of Inverclyde Council has joined counterparts across the country in calling for more money from the Scottish Government for local authorities in next year’s budget.
Councillor Stephen McCabe has added his signature those of Scotland’s other 31 council leaders in a letter sent today (24 December 2021) to the first minister and finance secretary expressing their ‘deep concern’ at the proposed funding settlement.
The plea was issued on behalf of councils by local authority umbrella group COSLA following a special leaders’ meeting this week to discuss the local government budget.
The letter says that the financial settlement for 2022/23 represents ‘a £371m real terms cut in core funding’, which leaders say is ‘unacceptable’.
Concerns were expressed about the ability of local authorities to continue delivering good quality public services while budgets are being squeezed.
Councillor McCabe said: “It’s becoming more challenging each year for councils to deliver not just a balanced budget but one that allows us to maintain services, let alone improve them.
“Ultimately, it is the people of Inverclyde and in communities across Scotland who suffer and are let down when local government is not sufficiently funded.
“The fact that all 32 council leaders across Scotland have expressed serious concern and dismay tells us something and it’s now over to the government to show the respect to local authorities that we are calling for and rethink the current proposed funding settlement.”
The full text of the letter is as follows:
Dear First Minister and Cabinet Secretary,
As Council Leaders from the 32 Local Authorities in Scotland, we are writing on behalf of the communities we serve, to say that we are deeply concerned at how the Scottish Government has treated Local Government in this year’s Scottish Budget.
At a special meeting of Leaders on 21 December, we expressed our extreme disappointment at the Local Government financial settlement for 22/23 that has now been circulated to Councils. Our view is that this settlement, which is a £371m real terms cut in core funding, is unacceptable. Every penny of the cash increase presented on the 9 December (£791m) is for Scottish Government policy priorities and in real terms, erodes our core funding – funding that is essential for the services that underpin our communities and support our shared ambitions including recovery, economic transformation and eradicating child poverty. Put simply, it does not allow us to enable people to ‘live well locally’.
We are unanimous in our view that we have been managing challenging budgets for over a decade now but that there is now no room to make further savings, without a detriment to our communities. Additionally, the settlement does not include any funding for pay, inflation or increased demand for services. The impact of this Settlement will be stark for our services and our staff. It will mean that Local Government must reconsider commitments at a local and national level.
We are also clear that the settlement needs to include:
- Funding for the increased burden of National Insurance Contributions at around £70m (which we are aware NHS in Scotland and English Councils have been funded for);
- Funding for the additional costs of the Council Tax Reduction programme and its administration, at around £20m (with this quantum established through partnership working at official level, in good faith);
- Full funding for the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare, which has been cut by £15m for 22/23 (threatening delivery at a local level of this flagship policy).
Yet again, this settlement demonstrates that Scottish Government is not giving Local Government the respect it deserves and is showing complete disregard for Local Government’s role as a key partner in achieving better outcomes for the people of Scotland.
COSLA Leaders believe that the relationship between Local and Scottish Government has been called into question by this Scottish Budget which, for the benefit of our communities, we must work to rectify immediately. We would ask that an urgent meeting is set up with you, First Minister, and the COSLA Leadership Team including Political Group Leaders.
All 32 Local Authority Leaders.