Council leaders have insisted it is essential they get an “adequate” funding deal in next year’s Scottish Budget to help “ease the pressure” on the NHS.
With the health service feeling the strain as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, local government chiefs have insisted the preventative work they do is vital in helping keep people away from hospitals.
With Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes due to unveil her draft Budget for 2022-23 on December 9, local authority organisation Cosla highlighted its “key” role in “creating the conditions for improved health and wellbeing”.
Cosla chiefs have already told the Scottish Government that councils need to receive more than £12.6bn next year – some £1.6bn more than they received in 2021-22 – if authorities are to “thrive”.
This push for more cash is central to COSLA’s Live Well Locally campaign.
COSLA president Alison Evison insisted: “By investing adequately in the essential services that local government provides, the Scottish Government would be enabling us to ease the pressure on the NHS and work towards achieving our joint aim of enabling everyone to ‘live well locally’.”
She added: “Significant additional funding has gone into the NHS over recent years, yet health inequalities still exist and our communities are still seeing too many drug deaths.
“The NHS is having to deal with problems once they are too far gone and at the most expensive part of the process. Investing in local government would enable investment in more cost-effective prevention work.”
That message was echoed by COSLA resources spokeswoman Gail Macgregor, who said: “Scottish local government is key to creating the conditions for improved health and wellbeing in our communities.
“The Scottish Budget on December 9 presents a perfect opportunity to reset Scottish public spending in a way that empowers councils to achieve their ambition for our communities.”
COSLA vice-president Graham Houston argued that “simply pouring further resource into health is in itself not the answer”, adding that evidence from the World Health Organisation showed “that investment across the whole system is crucial in allowing communities to thrive”.
He stated: “This year’s Scottish Budget must clearly demonstrate a commitment to this whole system of health, and the vital preventative and early intervention services councils provide.
“The National Health Service in Scotland does a tremendous job but it cannot solve Scotland’s health issues on its own. Councils have a vital role to play – and that needs investment in councils by the Scottish Government.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The 2022-23 draft Scottish Budget will set out how we will deliver our new Programme for Government, reflecting the challenges facing households, communities and businesses as Scotland continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“This year’s budget is expected to be challenging as a result of the continued pressure facing our public services and no additional Covid-19 funding from the UK Government, however Scottish ministers will ensure all investment is focused on helping people across the country.
“We recognise the unprecedented challenges health and social care services are experiencing and that is why we have announced a record £300m of new investment in measures to help services deal with system pressures over winter.”