Thank you for writing to me about the huge funding gap facing local services. I apologise for the delay in responding.
The Tory Government has inflicted chaos on the country this year with a staggering display of financial mismanagement. However funding for local authorities in Scotland is set by the Scottish government, and it is SNP-inflicted austerity that has left Scotland’s local services under threat.
Between 2013/14 and 2022/23, the Scottish Government handed down proportionately deeper cuts to local government than had been made to their own budget, resulting in a total cut of £6bn from core local government budgets. Even now, while councils are warning that they face £1bn black hole the SNP are proposing another real terms cut next year.
The constant raiding of local government funding has left bins overflowing, roads crumbling, libraries and public spaces closing, and social work struggling to cope. An ever-growing proportion of the local government budget is also ring-fenced by the Scottish Government, putting further pressures on the funds local authorities have available to deliver core services and pay their workforce. Before the 2023/24 budget statement COSLA issued an SOS call to “Save our Services” and Directors of Finance from all 32 councils wrote to John Swinney outlining their concerns, yet after central SNP policy commitments are taken into account councils have been given only an additional £71m, which in the current economy climate will not be enough to even stand still. The consequences of this will be dire for public services, and councils are warning that some may have to stop all together. It is not sustainable for the SNP to continue to underfund these vital services.
Scottish Labour’s analysis has revealed the devastating impact of cuts to local services – between 2011 and 2021 funding for parks and open spaces has been cut by over £365m, library funding has fallen by almost £260m, and over 320m has been cut from street cleaning. The result is overflowing bins, rusting playparks and library closures in communities across Scotland.
The SNP Government claim credit for the policies delivered by Councils but then take no responsibility for the devastating cuts that they impose. Councils need the flexibility and freedom to make decisions which are best for their local communities. Scottish Labour will continue to press the government to deliver fair funding for local authorities so that they have the resources to protect the essential services we all rely on.