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Council / Coutts supports call for ‘fair funding’ settlement for councils

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Islands Council leader Steven Coutts has backed calls from local authority body COSLA on the need for local government to receive a “fair funding settlement” in the upcoming Scottish budget.

The Shetland West councillor said “we need to ensure that we get a fair budget settlement in recognition of the crucial nature of council services”.

Coutts said the council “very much agreed” with the sentiments of COSLA, which said the “trend of recent settlements for local government needs to change because on top of existing pressures, the Covid pandemic has placed unprecedented strain on the finances of Scotland’s councils this year”.

COSLA has released a new paper called ‘Respect our communities, protect our funding’, which said income for Scottish councils is unlikely to recover until “much later in 2021/22”.

The organisation said that any additional Covid related funding from the UK Government for 2020/21 must be passed onto councils – as should any cash increase for 2021/22.

COSLA resources spokesperson councillor Gail Macgregor said: “This year, across every community in Scotland, local government’s essential role has been magnified and once again we have delivered for our communities.

“Nobody in Scotland has been unaffected by this pandemic and the financial impacts of Covid-19 are severe. Individuals, families and businesses have all felt the effects and continue to look to Councils for support every day.

“Sustaining this lifeline support is placing extreme pressure on already strained budgets and without fair funding for Local Government this year, the consequences for the most vulnerable in our communities would be unacceptable.

“That is why we need fair funding for 2021/22 that respects our communities. Without this, there will be further cuts to services, reductions in spending locally, increases in the inequalities exposed by the pandemic and a much slower recovery.”

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston also backed COSLA’s calls.

“Given the amount of financial support that the UK Government has provided to the Scottish Government, it is simply unacceptable that further cuts, with the risk of loss of vital local services and jobs, are having to be considered,” he said.

“Our council workers have been at the forefront of supporting local people and local communities through the pandemic, and it’s vital that that the Scottish Government delivers the support they need.”

In October the Scottish Government announced that a package of “financial flexibilities and extra funding” for councils which could be worth up to £750 million had been agreed in partnership with COSLA.

The government said that this brought the value of the overall Covid-19 support package for Scottish councils to more than £1 billion.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said at the time: “These measures are excellent examples of how the Scottish Government is working together with COSLA and local authorities to ensure that we are doing everything within our power to save jobs, protect our public services and reboot our economy.”