Council Leader urges First Minister to reconsider council budget deal
"Severe and far-reaching consequences" of the current Scottish Government budget settlement highlighted
Published: 20 February 2023
The Council Leader has written to the First Minister to highlight the "severe and far-reaching consequences" the current Scottish Government budget settlement will have for local residents.
Councillor Owen O'Donnell has called on Nicola Sturgeon to recognise the damaging impact of ring-fencing so much of the council budget to deliver national priorities.
And as Councillor O'Donnell prepares to deliver the Council's budget on March 1, he is urging the Scottish Government to think again to deliver a settlement that will give councils the power to make the decisions needed to tackle local priorities.
Councillor O'Donnell said: 'I have written to the First Minister to outline my great concerns about the severe and far-reaching consequences the Local Government settlement will have on Council budgets. In East Renfrewshire, we are facing a budget shortfall of more than £30m over the next three years which will leave us no option but to cut services and jobs. This unprecedented financial challenge will have a huge impact on our residents who rely so much on the vital services the Council provides.'
A budget engagement process was held by the Council in the Autumn, which outlined many of the savings options being considered to balance the books.
The response from residents was the largest ever to an exercise of this kind in the Council's history, highlighting the level of concern people in East Renfrewshire have.
Councillor O'Donnell added: 'Our residents have made their concerns about the scale of cuts required known to us - and there are undoubtedly some very difficult decisions ahead. So, to then be told of yet more Scottish Government restrictions on how we can spend our settlement, particularly in education, only puts more pressure on other areas of our Budget. Stripping councils of the power to decide at a local level how best to tackle such important priorities as closing the attainment gap will only hamper our efforts and create a democratic deficit for local people. The ring-fencing of so much of our funding to support national policy priorities is unacceptable, particularly given our settlement from the Scottish Government has left us with barely any extra cash on a like-for-like basis. This leaves us with no room to manoeuvre when it comes to local spending priorities and also forces us to consider an increase in Council Tax which households already struggling to cope with the Cost of Living Crisis can ill afford.'
Council Leaders from all of Scotland's 32 local authorities, represented by the umbrella organisation COSLA, have unanimously called for the First Minister to recognise the concerns raised and respond.