Headlines: October 29th, 2002

Local councils in Scotland will today point to a 440 million pound gap between the Scottish Executive’s Spending Review Calculations for the next three years and the cost of funding core local government services.The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities – COSLA – will give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s local government committee. COSLA will call for funds to be made available to local authorities on a flexible basis and it has reiterated its view – first stated when the Executive made its all Scotland announcement last month – that interpretation of the figures needed to be treated with caution until further work on the detail had beenĀ  done.

COSLA’s finance spokesperson Councillor John Pentland said, “On the basis of information provided it is clear that the Executive’s Spending Review calculations direct resources to their initiatives at the expense of core local government services. In total over the three years core services are being under-funded by some 440 million pounds.”

He said the under-funding, combined with the Executive’s central direction on the use of resources created the prospect of difficult budget decisions for councils.

Councillor Pentland said there were a number of positive outcomes from the announcements, including full recognition of COSLA’s estimate of increased national insurance costs next year.

He continued, “Also, beyond the main local government announcement it is understood that local government will have access to provision which exists within other programmes of the Scottish Budget, for example care home fees, strategic waste fund, delayed discharge, health improvement and transport initiatives.”

It was absolutely essential, he said, that full discussion took place with local government, as the equal partner that delivered the service, prior to any decisions being made on the allocation of these resources.

“We have consistently emphasised to the Executive that the announcement of LGF resources should all be made at the same time and not as a drip feed approach over a lengthy period, ” he said.”The targeting of the substantial proportion of the year-on-year increase in resources by the Scottish Executive demonstrates an unhealthy concentration on national priorities. It is essential that resources are made available to local government on a flexible basis,” Councillor Pentland added.