LGiU Scotland’s Kim Fellows gives a quick update on the Scottish budget that was announced today.
They say that a week is a long time in politics; however in December 2018 it feels like a day is a long time in politics. In the midst of the Brexit turmoil, Scottish Parliament today received the budget announcement for 2019/20. There is no detailed breakdown – that detail is to come over the next week or so – however it is an indication of funding for councils and the public sector.
Derek Mackay, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, promised to transform public services, and on Wednesday morning COSLA President Alison Evison tweeted that she was hopeful that local government would get a fair settlement. The same morning, the Accounts Commission gave evidence in Parliament on the latest overview report, where the Chair said that “councils did a good job last year in managing resources as budgets tighten and demands on them rise.”
Derek Mackay said “the budget provides a real terms increase in revenue and capital funding for local government”. However, COSLA that afternoon expressed disappointment for councils, communities and employees who deliver essential services. In fact, some of the local government funding, for example expansion of early learning and childcare, is ring-fenced monies. And the budget contains no mention of the transient visitor levy, one of local government’s requests. What is certain is that demand will rise, and public sector pay will continue to add to the pressure on councils.
Back in July, UNISON published research findings that show the human cost of council cuts to individuals and communities in terms of mental health impacts alone. At LGiU we have a saying that council services delivered the length and breadth of the country go “beyond the bins”. Things that are often under-appreciated but services that deliver for everyone, everyday – social work services, education, environmental health and much more.
Looking at the media coverage of the budget, there is recognition that with the NHS now at 47% of the Scottish budget, other areas are being squeezed to compensate. The impact of budget pressures on “other services, not education” was also highlighted in the Accounts Commission overview report.
Remembering that the negotiations in Parliament start now and last for weeks, it will be vitally important to local government and partners to understand what happens next. Councils will receive their budget allocations next week. Stay tuned as we bring you all the latest budget news.