Councils call for budget increase as ‘cracks start to show’

The National, by Gregor Young

COUNCIL budgets are at breaking point and cuts are causing Scots to lose pride in their communities, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities’ (Cosla’s) president has warned.

Arguing that cuts to essential services have damaged “the heart of our communities”, Councillor Alison Evison said more funding is needed for local authorities.

In her call for “a fair settlement” in the Scottish Government’s budget, the council body chief suggested targets on climate change and poverty will be missed because of reduced council funding.

Social isolation is rising and people are losing pride in their local areas as council budgets are squeezed by cuts and budget ring-fencing, she suggested.

The Cosla president commented: “Without adequate investment in Scotland’s councils, the cracks are starting to show.

“In every indicator, whether it is economic growth, tackling climate change, wellbeing or child poverty, cuts to council budgets will mean targets are missed. This goes well beyond money. This goes to the heart of our communities. We now have a situation where communities are losing their sense of pride as social isolation rises due to projects and initiatives being cut.

“If the Scottish Government is truly serious about creating sustainable communities, then they must provide Scotland’s councils with a fair settlement as part of this year’s budget.”

However, a Scottish Government spokesman said Holyrood has delivered a real terms funding increase despite Westminster cuts.

They stated: “Despite further cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government, we have ensured our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement – delivering a funding package of £11.2 billion for all local authorities in 2019-20, which is a real terms increase of more than £310 million.

“While ring-fenced funding is for increased investment in services such as our schools and nurseries, local authorities have complete autonomy to allocate over 92% – £10.3bn – of the funding we provide, plus all locally raised income.

“Any assumptions relating to possible future budget settlements are entirely speculative at this stage.”