Headlines: November 25th, 2005

Local authorities in Scotland are warning that they are losing patience after what they have called ‘an extremely tight settlement’ from the Scottish Executive. Councils are warning that they are now looking at large-scale cuts in services.Pat Watters, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said the level of the settlement attacked the principles of protecting the services authorities delivered to their communities and keeping council tax levels as low as possible, which were uppermost in councils’ decision making process. Councillor Watters said the Executive had not delivered anything new for Scottish local government and councils were left with no other choice than to look at cuts in frontline services.

“Yes councils can put a downward push on council tax but coupled with a tight settlement it would be at the expense of front line services that we deliver daily to communities. No council in Scotland wants to raise council tax more than it needs to but this is an extremely tight settlement for Scottish local government,” he said.

Councillor Watters said Scottish Local Government had already met almost double the savings it had been set under Government efficiency targets, in addition to dealing with a 168 million pound top slicing of its budget. There were, he said, more efficiencies to be made across the whole of the public sector and not just by councils.

COSLA’s Finance Spokesperson, Councillor John Pentland, said councils were losing patience and believed partnership had to deliver a dividend. “Councils are past the stage of managing on a lack of resources and are now looking at major cuts in services,” he said. COSLA, he added, had made its concerns clear to the Executive and outlined the real spending pressures local authorities were facing, but its pleas had fallen on deaf ears.