£10.4bn for Scots councils – but is it enough?

The Scottish government’s finance secretary Derek Mackay has announced that Scottish local authorities will receive a total funding package of £10.426 billion for 2017-18.

Mackay’s announcement came just days after the Accounts Commission — the local government spending watchdog — outlined “a long-term decline in Scottish government real terms funding which makes up around 60% of council income.”

And the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) claimed earlier this week that local government has seen a £550 million reduction in its settlement over 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The  Accounts Commission said: “… there continue to be increasing pressures on services, particularly in social care and education which together account for over 70% of council spending.”

The watchdog added: “Councils have made savings by cutting jobs but half of them still don’t have organisation-wide workforce plans.

“Councils must learn more from each other and collaborate better to improve services and reduce costs.”

The Scottish government said the new funding settlement and package of measures “will enable local authorities to maintain, and increase, the pace of reform needed to improve the vital services on which the people of Scotland depend and value.”

Mackay said: “My priority has been to deliver a financial settlement that councils can accept in order that we can pursue shared priorities which will improve outcomes for local people.

“This settlement supports the delivery of education in our schools and efforts to close the attainment gap, it supports local investment in roads and improving our infrastructure, backs community services and helps support social care services.

“Alongside additional funding for health and social care integration, including payment of the living wage, this government has given local authorities a fair deal by providing a potential increase in services of more than £400 million.”

COSLA president David O’Neill said earlier this week: “There have been various presentations and misrepresentations of the local government budget over the last couple of years which we feel are not only confusing to communities but also significantly damaging to the role of local government.

“The truth of the matter is that over 2016-17 and 2017-18 local government has seen a £550 million reduction in its settlement and that is the budget reality.

“Councils are doing all they can to mitigate the impact of these cuts on communities.

“On better long term planning, both COSLA and Audit Scotland have highlighted on numerous occasions the real difficulties one year settlements from the Scottish Government pose us.”