Cutting council workforce will have ‘serious consequences’

There is concern local authorities will get less cash from the Scottish Government than they would raise with a council tax rise.

Cutting Scotland’s council workforce will have ‘serious consequences’ Getty Images

Scotland’s finance secretary has been warned that any council tax freeze in Tuesday’s budget must be fully funded.

Shona Robison confirmed on Sunday that the freeze is “here to stay” as she prepares to set out the Scottish Government spending and tax plans for the year ahead.

The deputy first minister promised the move would be “fully funded” amid fears councils could see less money from ministers than they would from council tax rises.

Robison said she will be working with local authorities “in terms of what is a fair analysis of what a council tax freeze will be based on”.

But she suggested councils would receive an amount “based on the actual needs of the council tax freeze”.

COSLA, the umbrella body which represents Scotland’s 32 local authorities, said any freeze would not be fully funded unless councils received the full amount that would have been raised by tax increases.

Earlier this year many councils raised taxes by about 5% or 6% but some went as high as 10%.

Shona Robison
Finance secretary Shona Robison will deliver the Scottish budget tomorrow.

COSLA’s vice president said he was “uncomfortable” with some of the remarks from the deputy FM.

Councillor Steven Heddle said: “Firstly, the deputy first minister cannot decide or unilaterally say that the ‘council tax freeze to stay’ – it’s up to 32 individual councils to decide if they have a council tax freeze or not, not her government.

“Secondly, unless it is funded with additional money for each council that allows them to fund their planned council tax increases, then it is not fully funded, and it will be our service users who will suffer as a consequence.

“The funding for the freeze needs to be transparently additional and consolidated into our Budgets for future years.”

Heddle pointed to figures that showed while the local government workforce had shrunk by 15% since 2006 the Scottish Government workforce has nearly doubled.

He said councils will be unable to deliver on their key aims of tackling poverty, transforming the economy through a just transition and delivering sustainable public services if they are underfunded.

He added: “COSLA knows that the Scottish Government is under pressure financially around this budget.

“However, the council tax freeze came out of the blue and has serious financial implications.

“And any suggestions that local government’s workforce needs cut further will have serious consequences for communities.”  

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Ministers are well aware that decisions on council tax rates and the local government workforce are matters for local councils.

“The Deputy First Minister will set out proposals for local government funding tomorrow as part of the Scottish Budget.

“These will be in line with the First Minister’s announcement that the Scottish Government will fully fund the council tax freeze.”

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