For my first article, I am looking at the ongoing funding crisis that is currently affecting all local authorities in Scotland.
This has a knock-on effect on local services and jobs which affect us all regardless of where we live and what we do.
Just yesterday we heard from Holyrood that a deal had been struck to pass the budget and keep Scotland and our council’s running for the year ahead. Once again it was the Green Party that came to the SNP’s aid but there was a cost which we now understand according to the BBC is an extra £170 million for local councils. This is good news for our local services, but will it actually protect our valuable public services and stop the prospect of further cuts? According to the Telegraph, Scottish councils now have “debt totaling £14.5 billion and spend around 10 percent of their budget servicing it”. If this is the case does this mean this new £160 million is just a drop in the ocean?
For this article, I asked Perth and Kinross Council and Clackmannanshire council which has been highlighted by Audit Scotland as one of three councils that could run out of funds within a couple of years if they keep spending. Both councils declined to comment on the issue with Clackmannanshire sending over their budget consultation while Perth and Kinross Council have not discussed the budget so they were unable to comment further.
According to Clackmannanshire council “Over the last seven years, the Council has made savings of around £35m. The Council’s current budget is £118m and after making savings of around 30% over that period, it is increasingly difficult to find savings which will not impact on individuals and communities”. If this is the council’s outlook then is it now not just a possibility but a definite fact that local services in their area will face further cuts?
If this is the case then how much will we need to properly sort out this crisis? and who does the blame fall on for letting this situation get so out of hand? It may not be just public services that take a hit there are also parts of councils that could be lining up for a fresh round of cuts.
While some blame the SNP administration in Holyrood for cutting council budgets which have left them “fallen by 7.6% in real terms since 2010-11.” according to the Guardian. While the SNP claims it is the UK government to blame for this mess with the Fraser of Allander Institute saying “the Scottish Government’s block grant was projected to fall by 1.5% in real terms between 2017/18 and 2018/19, before falling by a further 1.3% in 2019/20.” However, for now, it looks like both sides are pointing fingers at each other for the problems that everyday people are facing and having to put up with.
For now though the funding crisis in councils does not seem to be going away anytime soon and will it result in further cuts to public services? The threat of council workers being made unemployed? or an increase in council tax? One thing is for sure, in politics nothing is ever straightforward.
Does an extra £160 million for councils stop the prospect for further cuts? Or is it too little too late?
— Marco Douglas (@MarcoDouglas27) February 2, 2018