Skip to main content

‘Budget cuts’ impact on schools will be profound’

As individual budget allocations for Scottish councils are revealed, authorities fear they are ‘running towards a cliff edge’

Councils say they are ‘running towards a cliff edge’ and essential services like schools are being put a risk

Scottish councils' allocations in the draft budget put at risk the delivery of essential services, including education, according to local government body Cosla.

Total funding for both the revenue and capital budget in the settlement is up more than £210 million, with overall Scottish government support to local authorities standing at £11.1 billion.

The total includes core funding and cash from other areas, but Cosla argues that, once money already committed and ring-fenced funding is factored in, both core capital and revenue budgets will have been cut.

Opposition politicians, meanwhile, have argued that the impact of the government’s spending plans on frontline services, such as schools, would be “profound”.

Cosla resources spokeswoman Gail Macgregor said: "The issuing of the circular today basically confirms what we already knew, that this is a severe cut to the core budget that provides the vast majority of our essential services.

"This is bad news for communities – the impact on jobs and services is significant. The budget does not recognise our role as an employer, procurer and deliverer of essential services.

"If this settlement is not changed, it will mean substantial job losses in places where local government is the main employer.

"Without meaningful movement on the basic settlement and proper discussions around enabling local government to raise more locally, I fear we are running towards a cliff edge."

The news comes as parents in Fife joined forces to fight school budget cuts after the council unveiled plans to cut £4m from education services over the next two years, including almost £2m from secondary schools.

Meanwhile, Falkirk children’s services – which include schools – have been asked to make “unprecedented budget savings” of £29.26m over the next five financial years.

The Scottish government said it was protecting essential services by delivering a "real-terms funding increase for local government".

Finance secretary Derek Mackay said: "The Scottish government has continued to ensure that our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement despite further cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK government.

"After removing the health uplift, the Scottish government fiscal resource block grant funding goes down by £340m or 1.3 per cent in real terms for 2019-20. Despite that reduction, we have still provided a 2 per cent real-terms uplift in the total local government settlement for 2019-20.

"If local authorities choose to use their powers to increase council tax by up to 3 per cent, they can generate up to an additional £80m to support the delivery of essential local services."

However, Scottish Labour finance spokesman James Kelly said: "No amount of spin from Derek MacKay hides the fact that his budget cuts core council budgets in real terms by a whopping £319m.

"That is a fact that has been confirmed by the independent experts at the Scottish Parliament Information Centre.

"Rather than insult people with spin, Derek MacKay should be delivering a budget that delivers the radical investment local services need."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "Once again, local government is getting the short end of the stick.

"[First minister] Nicola Sturgeon's SNP have passed down cut after cut to local funds and expected councils to deal with it. Something has got to give."

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said: "It's increasingly clear that the Scottish government's proposed budget cuts will force local councils to slash frontline services. Ministers cannot continue to spin their spending plans as fair when the impact on jobs, care services and schools will be profound.

"The Scottish Greens have set out a better way forward. If SNP ministers commit to scrap the unfair, outdated council tax and indicate support for giving councils the power to raise more of their own funds, we can at least begin to talk about the coming year's budget.

"But of course that budget must protect our public services, and the time for those talks is fast running out."

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you