William Eichler 29 November 2018

Pressure on Scottish councils ‘shows no signs of easing’

Scottish councils are managing in the face of government cuts and rising demands on services but they ‘face a difficult time ahead’, a financial watchdog has warned.

A report from Audit Scotland’s Account Commission found that local authorities in Scotland face a complex range of challenges and continuing pressure on finance.

In 2017/18, funding from the Scottish government reduced by 2.3% in real terms.

This reduction was largely offset by increases in council tax and councils’ fee income, with most councils applying the maximum 3% increase to council tax.  

However, the report warns that there will be further funding reductions in the medium term, which will be made worse by the continued increase in demand on services and uncertainty due to Brexit.

The report noted that in 2017/18 councils used savings and reserves to manage budgeted funding gaps of 4%.

It also found that 24 local authorities increased council tax, while in the current year, all 32 have done this.

Overall rises in spending on education and social work were offset by reductions in other services.

‘Councils did a good job last year in managing resources as budgets are tightened and demands on them rise,’ said Graham Sharp, chair of the Accounts Commission.

‘The position varies from council to council but there is clearly need for continuing change in the way services are provided. It's not been easy but the pressure on them — and the key services we all rely on — shows no signs of easing.’

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