Scotland’s council leaders have warned the “poverty gap in Scotland will continue to grow”, unless more funding can be provided for local government as part of Holyrood’s Budget process.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) came together for a special meeting last week to discuss its response to the Scottish Government’s spending plans.
Deputy first minister Shona Robison pledged £13.2bn to councils as she outlined the budget to Holyrood on December 19, which offered £144m in compensation for freezing council tax.
The MSP has since insisted the draft budget for 2024-25 shows the Scottish Government is “supporting public services, including those delivered by councils” and highlighted the overall funding package is up on the current year.
But councils had been seeking a minimum of £300m to cover the cost of keeping council tax bills unchanged, and with MSPs still to vote on whether to approve the budget, local government body COSLA warned that as the funding currently stands, “communities will see and feel a range of negative impacts”.
COSLA, which represents all 32 of Scotland’s councils, released a statement on Wednesday revealing that there is “dismay and frustration from Scotland’s council leaders about the way local government and the communities we represent had been treated”.
The statement read: “Specifically on poverty, the Budget should have had a focus on tackling the root causes of poverty, particularly its impacts on children.
“This would have needed a greater prioritisation of the work councils do in prevention and early support.
“Tackling poverty in Scotland will continue to be a significant challenge when councils do not have the resources they need to support communities.
“This year’s budget presented the opportunity to prioritise prevention and tackle inequity, to invest in communities and realise our ambitions to end poverty in Scotland. It did not deliver.
“Without a fair settlement for councils, the poverty gap in Scotland will continue to grow.
“Investing in local government is key to a fairer Scotland.”
COSLA’s president, vice-president and political group leaders from all parties, have written to Robison and “are seeking an urgent meeting”.
The organisation added: “Council leaders will not let this lie, they simply cannot afford to because it will have such a detrimental impact on the communities they represent.”
Robison said: “The Scottish budget includes record funding of over £14bn for councils in 2024-25 – a real-terms increase of 4.3% compared with this year’s Budget – should they agree to freeze council tax.
“The budget also increases the Scottish child payment in line with inflation to £26.70 a week. This payment is not available anywhere else in the UK and it’s available because we’re prioritising lifting children out of poverty, despite constrained resources.
“Modelling estimates that an estimated 90,000 fewer children are expected to live in relative and absolute poverty this year as a result of Scottish Government policies, with poverty levels nine percentage points lower than they would have otherwise been.
“The Scottish Government is happy to meet with COSLA to discuss their concerns.”
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