All 32 council finance chiefs write to John Swinney with cash demand

Monday December 5th 2022


Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

The Scottish Government has been warned that local services could grind to a halt without more help as local councils face a £1 billion spending crisis.

An unprecedented warning letter signed by finance chiefs from all 32 councils has been written to the Deputy First Minister John Swinney

The letter is uncompromising in the blunt language it uses about the threat to public services posed by spending constraints which come on the back of more than a decade of slashed budgets.

The Scottish Government is set to announce its budget later this month ahead of councils making their own budgets early in the new year.

The letter to Mr Swinney, from The Directors of Finance in Scotland, warns everyday services could stop without proper funding adding:

“The situation for next year and beyond is unprecedented.

“Local Government is facing over £1bn of pressures in 2023-24 with Councils now facing tough choices that will impact the services that the public rely upon. Such considerations include those relating to schools, waste, roads, family support, public health, and social care.

“The choices come down to reducing services, stopping services and ultimately, reducing the number of jobs. This is bad news for individuals, families, communities and economies across Scotland.”

It adds: “The main social determinants of health – including education, housing, employment – are all long-term drivers which must be invested in to improve health outcomes and address health inequality.

“This year, Directors of Finance have felt the need to write to you directly. I am sure you will appreciate that this demonstrates the severity of the situation and that you will give consideration to the issues we raise as part of the 2023-24 budget settlement.”

Scotland’s finance directors call on Mr Swinney to recognise that services will be affected unless the Scottish Government uses the Westminster block grant funding to target specific shortfalls in local government spending and removes the bureaucracy that surrounds Holyrood funding for specific local authority projects.

The letters adds:

“Local Government has delivered a range of new policy initiatives which have not always been fully funded over the longer term. Each year, unfunded inflationary and demand pressures mean that Local Government’s core funding has to be reprioritised to protect such policy areas.

“Over recent years we have become increasingly aware of a large number of small funding allocations directed towards new policy initiatives. Irrespective of the substantial administration this causes we would challenge the need for funding to be delivered in such a prescriptive way with focus needing to be retained on delivering core services.”

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