A report published by local government body COSLA has stated that local government in Scotland will require £1bn of investment from the Scottish Government in order to protect vital and essential services.
COSLA stated that this investment must be contained in the forthcoming Scottish budget produced by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay and reach councils “before it is too late”.
Scottish Labour Finance, Jobs and Fair Work Spokesperson, Rhoda Grant, who is a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said:“It is absolutely vital that local government is fully equipped to deliver essential services to the community and able to protect schools, care for the elderly, libraries and sports facilities from government austerity.
“The SNP government has taken Tory austerity, turbo-charged it, and passed it on to Scotland’s councils. Across Scotland local authorities are struggling to deliver lifeline services and are being forced to make more and deeper cuts to services due to government austerity, leaving communities suffering.
“If the SNP government persists in creating new commitments for local authorities then it must listen to COSLA and ensure that local authorities receive the funding they need to meet the commitments. Any failure to do this only drives down funds for vital services.
“We call on the SNP to listen to COSLA, councils and Scottish Labour to ensure our communities are not made to pay for government austerity and that their vital services are protected.”
Scottish Labour Spokesperson for Local Government, Sarah Boyack, added:“ This is a wake-up call from COSLA. Year-on-year chronic underfunding is seeing more and more people being pushed into poverty by Tory welfare cuts, with local services under unprecedented pressures.“The COSLA report highlights the stark realities of increased centralisation and the real impact of cuts the SNP have imposed on local government. Councils are left with fewer choices to provide crucial services at a time when there are increased strains on budgets.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has warned residents of the Western Isles that their services are at further risk following the refusal of the SNP Government to pass on sufficient funding to the council.
Mr Cameron issued his warning after the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) warned that communities were suffering from cuts to council budgets. A Cosla report revealed that the Scottish Government had slashed its contribution to councils by 7% between 2013/14 and 2019/20 - a far deeper cut than any reduction made to its own income.
The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “SNP ministers are failing to pass on funding which should have gone to the Comhairle.
“In the last six years alone, while the SNP has been in power, the council has had its general revenue funding slashed by 14% - which now equates to a reduction of nearly £15m per annum.
“Instead of thanking council employees for their efforts, all Nicola Sturgeon has done is pile on more responsibilities to councils, while diverting spending to the SNP’s political priorities which all too often are located in the Central Belt.
“It’s not surprising that local people are experiencing a toxic combination of rising costs for those services which are retained, while others are cut entirely, as the Council struggles to make ends meet.
“This is grossly unfair and it’s about time the people of the Western Isles received a fair deal from the SNP.”
The article has been updated with additional material since first being posted