COSLA Warns Against Further Funding Cuts for Councils

BBC - Further cuts to council funding would be "disastrous", according to the head of local government body Cosla.

A special meeting of council leaders is due to take place in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Ahead of that, Cosla president David O'Neill urged Scottish ministers to preserve funding in this week's budget.

The Scottish government said local government had been treated fairly despite cuts to the overall Scottish budget made by Westminster.

The local government revenue settlement funding for councils is due to be announced on Thursday, along with the budget.

'Real cuts'

Cosla's David O'Neill told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that local government was shouldering more than its "fair share" of cuts.

He said councils were "very adept" at changing the way they worked to cope with budget pressures.

They now need to change how they work with other public agencies, he said.

"Local authorities work better with the health service and other public agencies, but other public agencies are more reluctant to change," he added.

"We need to get other public agencies to come with us."

Mr O'Neill also called for an end to one-year financial settlements, which make it "impossible to plan for the long term".

"We need a long term settlement and a long term solution," he said.

Mr O'Neill said "a cut of the magnitude of last year's £349m would have a disastrous impact on both communities and services".

He added: "All too often when we talk of cuts to local government these are seen in the abstract. The reality is that we are talking about real cuts to services and jobs.

"The simple truth is that a cut to local government means a cut in teaching assistants, a cut in levels of care for all our elderly relatives, cuts for the homeless as a freezing winter starts to bite and cuts to gritting of the roads at a time of freezing temperatures when trains and the wider transport network is struggling to cope.

"Make no mistake, the Scottish government has a political choice here and with additional cash of £418m for next year there should be no cut to local government."

The Scottish government said it remained committed to engaging Cosla in further dialogue on a range of issue.

'Settlements maintained'

A spokesman said the finance secretary's Scottish draft budget would "support our economy, tackle inequality and provide high-quality public services for all".

He added: "Local government has experienced the same reduction in funding as was imposed on the Scottish government by Westminster - as outlined in an independent report from Audit Scotland.

"It is therefore clear that local government has been treated very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK government.

"Local government finance settlements were maintained in Scotland on a like-for-like basis over the period 2012-16, with extra money for new responsibilities resulting in total settlements of £10.8bn in 2014-15 and of over £10.85bn in 2015-16.

"Taking into account the addition of the £250m to support the integration of health and social care, the overall reduction in 2016-17 funding equates to less than 1% of local government's total estimated expenditure in 2016-17."

Meanwhile, a study commissioned by a separate local government umbrella body, has warned council budgets could be cut by £700m by the end of the current Parliament.

The Scottish Local Government Partnership (SLGP) consists of Aberdeen, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire Councils.

It commissioned a report by economic think-tank the Fraser of Allander Institute ahead of this week's Scottish budget.

The report said local authorities have suffered more than £1bn of cuts over the past five years and could face further reductions.

Last month, a report from the Accounts Commission said Scotland's councils face "significant challenges" managing their finances in future years.

Auditors found local authorities were generally in good financial health in 2015-16, but faced a difficult future.

The report warned councils needed "to change the way they work" and make long-term plans if they were to achieve the savings needed.

Source: BBC News

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