COSLA issues warning that any Council Tax Freeze must be fully funded

Monday December 18th 2023

Participatory Budgeting Cllr Heddle

COSLA Vice President Councillor Steven Heddle.

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

COSLA Vice President Councillor Steven Heddle today sent a strong warning to the Scottish Government that any Council Tax Freeze must be fully funded.

This comes on the back of the Deputy First Minister’s comments to the media yesterday.

Councillor Heddle said: “There were a few things in the comments made by the Deputy First Minister yesterday that I am uncomfortable with on behalf of COSLA, our member councils and the communities that we represent.

“Firstly, the Deputy First Minister cannot decide or unilaterally say that the ‘Council Tax freeze to stay’- it’s up to 32 individual council 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.”

“The DFM also mentioned the ‘Changing shape of public sector workforce’. Local Government’s workforce has already changed shape drastically. Between 2006 and 2018, the Local Government workforce reduced by 15% (35,000 FTE) before Scottish Government policies such as Early Learning and Childcare added staff back in from 2019. The Scottish Government workforce has nearly doubled since 2006; staffing in non-departmental bodies has also doubled and in Scottish Government agencies, staffing has grown by 15%. These increases have added more than 7,000 FTE staff in just over 15 years.

“The Verity House Agreement was designed to ensure positive working between Scottish Local Government and The Scottish Government, and a focus on better outcomes and person-centred services. The VHA has three priorities – to tackle poverty, particularly child poverty; to transform our economy through a just transition to deliver net zero, recognising climate change as one of the biggest threats to communities across Scotland; and deliver sustainable person-centred public services. Local Government will be unable to contribute to these if underfunded.

“COSLA knows that 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.”

Shona Robison, the Scottish Government Finance Minister will presnt her budget to the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.

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