Inverclyde councillors unite in funding plea to government
A GROUP of cross-party and independent Inverclyde councillors have joined forces to call for more funding from the Scottish Government to help prevent jobs losses and severe cuts to services.
The council’s members’ budget working group (MBWG), which is made up of representatives from all political parties and independents elected to the council, have written to deputy first minister John Swinney to express their collective ‘concern over the financial sustainability of local government in Scotland’.
In their letter, councillors Stephen McCabe, Elizabeth Robertson, Tommy McVey and Graeme Brooks also warned that vital services are ‘in danger’ of being reduced or removed completely if the ‘financial crisis’ facing councils is not resolved.
It comes ahead of the publication of the draft Scottish budget, which is due to be delivered by Mr Swinney next Thursday, 15 December 2022.
The Inverclyde councillors said: “Local government in Scotland and here in Inverclyde is ready to face the cost of living crisis but needs supported fully by the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to ensure that our services and finances are sustainable.
“Collectively we seek your assurances that the settlement offer for local government provides that long term sustainability for councils including Inverclyde.”
The plea from Inverclyde Council’s MBWG comes after finance directors from all 32 Scottish local authorities also wrote to Mr Swinney to express serious concerns about the funding crisis facing local government and in the same week that COSLA, the umbrella body that represents Scotland’s councils, launched an ‘SOS’ campaign to ‘Save Our Services’ calling for more money to prevent large-scale cuts.
The letter from the Inverclyde MBWG is as follows:
In Inverclyde we have a unique way of examining the council budget through our Members Budget Working Group.
It is a group bringing together representatives from all political parties and the Independents elected to the Council and it is in that cross-party/independent capacity that we collectively write to you.
Looking ahead to later this month when the budget settlement is announced, we want to express to you our concern over the financial sustainability of local government in Scotland.
We are aware that the current economic challenges we face are faced by every area of the public sector and that we are all seeing rising prices, pay demands and increases to energy costs.
While councils, including Inverclyde, have managed to deliver balanced budgets, we are concerned about the sustainability of that in an environment where at best flat cash is the offer.
Flat cash was potentially problematic in March and councils, including ours through the Members Budget Working Group, agreed to allocate one-off reserves to protect services during 2022/23. However, following the announcement in May of flat cash being the planned scenario for the medium term we have been wrestling with the detail of what that could look like by examining cuts to services and increases to charges and council tax.
Flat cash now looks like the start of the decline of Scottish local government.
Councils have shown commitment to delivering national priorities and while we have often pushed back on the mechanics employed such as ring fencing of funding it has been to highlight that local flexibility, removing cuts to core services are the ways we can ensure that we are supporting those priorities most effectively in our area.
The current and ongoing cost of living crisis is a challenge we are all facing but one that puts extra pressure on the range of council services touching the lives of the most vulnerable in our society.
These are the very services they rely on in this crisis and that we are in danger of seeing reduced or removed if the financial crisis facing councils is not resolved.
We are concerned to hear that local government statutory finance officers have taken the unprecedented step of writing to you to highlight the pressures of over £1bn highlighted by COSLA and their concern
It may be easy for politicians to push aside the concerns of other politicians and independent leaders in communities, but we would urge you to listen to the collective voices of the 32 Council finance leaders.
Local government in Scotland and here in Inverclyde is ready to face the cost of living crisis but needs supported fully by the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to ensure that our services and finances are sustainable.
Collectively we seek your assurances that the settlement offer for local government provides that long term sustainability for councils including Inverclyde.
Councillor Stephen McCabe
Councillor Elizabeth Robertson
Councillor Tommy McVey
Councillor Graeme Brooks