Council leaders in Scotland have warned that funding cuts of £350m – announced in yesterday’s budget – will lead to 15,000 job cuts and significant service reductions.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) said the ‘unacceptable’ austerity budget will see local government funding being cut by 3.5% in the next year.
COSLA president, cllr David O’Neill, said: ‘This is a budget that hits the council workforce in terms of job losses, it hits the child in care, it hits the elderly struggling with dementia and the vulnerable adults, all of whom solely rely on the support that only a council can provide.’
Cllr O’Neill added that the funding cut was particularly hard to bear given the Scottish Government was given a cash increase from Westminster.
He added: ‘A cut of 3.5% is catastrophic for jobs and services within Scottish local government – because the harsh reality is that it actually translates to real job cuts that hit real families, in real communities throughout Scotland. Everyone will be hurt by this.’
The budget has unveiled plans to transfer £250m from NHS to local authorities to support integration of health and social care, £70m to fund council tax freezes, and £88m to maintain teacher numbers.
Deputy first minister John Swinney said: 'The old boundary between NHS and Local Government spending – the boundary that has stymied so many attempts to improve care over decades - ceases to exist from April this year.
'So while this budget delivers a strong but challenging financial settlement for local government, we must recognise that the substantial investment in social care will support the delivery of that essential service.'
Trade union GMB Scotland added the Scottish Government had ‘missed’ the opportunity to use revenue-raising powers to increase investment in public services.
Alex Mc Luckie, regional officer at GMB Scotland, explained: ‘One good example of this is the decision to continue with the eight year freeze of the council tax. If council tax had kept pace with inflation Scottish councils would be raising an additional £427m in 2016/17.
‘There would be no need to raid Scottish Government central funds to compensate for these lost taxes thus increasing to amount available for the block grants to councils by £427m.’