Covid-19’s cost to councils to be investigated by MSPs

The Local Government Committee will assess the financial support local authorities might need in the wake of the pandemic.

The impact of coronavirus on council finances and their ability to deliver services will be at the centre of an investigation by MSPs.

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee will look at which council services have been most impacted by the pandemic.

They will also examine how local authorities are attempting to manage their money in the wake of the crisis, in both the short and long-term, and what further help may be required.

Views are also being sought on whether local government is able to return to “normal” or what the future of council services could look like.

Committee convener James Dornan said: “Councils are responsible for delivering a vast range of important services that are a crucial part of our everyday lives, from social care and street cleaning to public libraries and planning.

“When Covid-19 struck earlier this year, it had a massive impact on local authorities.

“They suddenly had to change basic working practices and find ways of delivering emergency services to many vulnerable people.

“This has had a knock-on effect on their ability to maintain some core services.”

Dornan said council staff had risen to the challenge and highlighted that many had positive stories to share.

However, he said the impact of Covid-19 will likely be “felt for years”.

He added: “And the full extent of the financial implications, and the ability of councils to provide these vital public services, remains unclear.

“We therefore want to hear views on what can be done to help councils weather the financial storm, in the short and long-term.

“We also want to know if the crisis has also provided an opportunity for fresh thinking about how councils deliver local services and local democracy and whether there are already good practices councils can share.

“The committee scrutinises Scottish Government housing policy, as well as local government housing responsibilities, and views on the impact of Covid-19 on housing policy are also welcome.”

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