Mark Conrad 17 May 2023

Scottish councils ‘uniquely placed’ to assist reform

Scottish councils ‘uniquely placed’ to assist reform   image
Image: Richie Chan / Shutterstock.com.

Councils are well-placed to deliver the key aims of Scotland’s government – such as tackling child poverty and net zero – but need ‘fair and sustained’ funding, experts have warned.

In evidence to Holyrood’s finance and public administration committee published on 15 May, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) reports that councils are ‘uniquely placed’ to assist with the country’s public service reform agenda – due to expertise in delivering policy and savings during a decade of cuts and austerity.

But the response also reminds ministers that ‘to ensure good intention becomes a reality’ then sustained funding is necessary. COSLA president Shona Morrison said: ‘COSLA welcomes the Scottish Government's renewed commitment to work collaboratively with local government to deliver on shared priorities, including tackling child poverty and achieving a just transition to net zero.

‘As the largest employer in many parts of Scotland our response also warns of the potential impact on staff - and the knock-on effects for communities - of seeking more and more efficiencies while demand for services continues to grow.’

COSLA’s submission urges ministers to draw on councils’ expertise in early intervention and prevention schemes, rather than reactive policies, to tackle difficult issues such as poverty. Financing such systems would also require ‘radical shifts towards increased flexibility and fiscal autonomy’ at local level, the submission states.

Kirsty Flanagan from CIPFA Directors of Finance added it was important for the national government to understand reform ‘is not new’ to councils.

‘We have been delivering significant efficiencies and new ways of working for the last decade, partly because we have had to in response to the real-terms cuts to core funding, but partly because we are committed to continuous improvement,’ Ms Flanagan said.

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