Local government funding – a national crisis

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2023 National Local Government Service Group Conference
17 February 2023

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) have published as part of their “Save Our Services” bulletins a projected funding gap of £1billion for 2023/24.

Scottish local government branches are already engaged in discussions with employers about cuts to jobs, cuts to terms and conditions and we note that some councils looking at wholesale restructuring with many reporting they are unable to provide some statutory functions.

According to research undertaken by UNISON last autumn councils across England were facing a collective funding gap of £2.4bn for the financial year 2023/24 and a cumulative funding gap of £4.08bn for 2024/25. At the same point, councils in Wales were facing collective funding gaps of £200m for 2023/24 and a cumulative funding gap of at least £307m for 2024/25. However, due to soaring energy costs and inflation these stark figures are likely to under-represent the true scale of the financial challenge faced by local councils.

Public services in Northern Ireland have also experienced significant funding cuts.

Reductions in funding, during the period of austerity, have resulted in financial pressures which have impacted negatively on the quality and delivery of local public services resulting in cuts to jobs and services.

Recruitment of additional council, government and agency staff is needed to ensure that registration, regulation and collection of revenues is undertaken to identify where loopholes, avoidance and coverage has allowed some to escape making their fair contribution.

The Service Group Executive is asked to adopt the following recommendations to campaign for local government to be better resourced:

1)A national coordinated campaign, calling for funding levels that Councils need to deliver services and ensure good pay and working conditions for their workforce;

2)Campaign to ensure that fair-work underpins any reviews of income streams and/or taxation. Making reliefs, subsidies and tenders dependent on good practices at the local level should raise revenues indirectly for Council budgets;

3)Consider how municipalisation of buses, energy and other public services could be appropriately pursued. Local government should lead the way in the Green Economy by creating green jobs that put de-carbonisation at its core;

4)Explore how local authority debts and PFI/PPP contracts can be taken over by the Treasury, saving local government many billions in interest charges each year and so releasing tax revenues for investment in local economies and communities;

5)Consider establishing a wide network of academics, stakeholders and interested parties in order to improve research and policy creation on better resourcing of local service provision;

6)Campaign for an end to any ring-fencing of local government funding by central governments.