Scottish local authorities can “take no more pain”, the head of an organisation representing councils has warned government finance ministers.
Councillor Kevin Keenan, finance spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), said communities across the country would face job losses and hits to vital services if central government funding to councils is cut.
The Scottish Government local government revenue settlement fell £507 million (-5.2 per cent) last year, accounting for inflation, and councils across Scotland project multi million-pound budget gaps as they anticipate further cuts.
Speaking in advance of the UK Chancellor’s budget statement on Wednesday, Mr Keenan said: “The decisions taken by the UK Government later this week and then by Scottish Government ministers next month will have a massive bearing on communities in terms of local services and local jobs.
“Scottish local government is already under severe financial pressure due to the political choices taken by the centre.
“For the sake of local services and local jobs within communities throughout Scotland, I can only hope that they recognise local government is at a defining moment and that the communities we represent can take no more pain.
“It is time for an honest debate. There is no more meat on the bone.
“This time round there are no more soft targets. We would be talking of severe cuts in vital services and job losses in communities, and sadly these will impact on the poorest in our society.
“In addition to this, over the last five years 40,000 jobs have been shed in local government.
“That’s 40,000 people in an economy looking for alternative employment. In areas where local government is the main employer, this is catastrophic and it is those areas that have suffered the most. Communities and the economy are suffering alike.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government, the Scottish Government has treated local government very fairly.
“It is too early to speculate on next year’s local government settlement in light of the ongoing discussions between the Scottish Government and Cosla on the spending review and the wider public service reform agenda, and also in advance of the UK Government autumn statement. Both will have a significant impact.”