Scottish local government must be funded properly for the first time in over a decade, says UNISON

UNISON Scotland has today (Friday) written to Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the funding crises in local government.

UNISON is calling on the Scottish government to plug the funding gap in local government to protect jobs and essential services.

Local government in Scotland has suffered more than a decade of cuts and is now under severe financial strain as a result of the pandemic, with increased demand for services and a substantial loss of income.

Johanna Baxter, UNISON head of local government, said: “This is a crisis of unprecedented scale. We have already seen £2bn of ‘efficiencies’ taken out of local government over the last decade and the pandemic has led to a double whammy of extra demand for services alongside a substantial loss of income.

“The recent package of measures announced by the Finance Secretary contained very little new money – much of it comprised of a complicated set of ‘fiscal flexibilities’ which only increases debt repayment periods and switches money across different budget headings. Those flexibilities are no substitute for a fair funding settlement and simply kicks the can of further cuts down the road.

“While councils across the country try to get their heads round these new flexibilities they remain in a perfect financial storm which puts essential jobs and services at risk. Urgent investment is needed to protect essential jobs and services, reward the heroic efforts of local government workers and provide the stability needed for economic recovery.”

Mark Ferguson, chair of UNISON Scotland’s local government committee, said: “Scotland’s local authorities were in difficulty before the pandemic but they are now in crisis – the financial impact of the pandemic has been huge.

“Local government workers up and down the country have gone above and beyond in their response to the coronavirus pandemic, keeping essential services going in the most difficult of circumstances.

“The willingness of workers in local authorities to adapt and shift priorities and roles to ensure vital functions for their communities have been maintained has been an exemplary response by an under-resourced and undervalued workforce which should be recognised and rewarded by the Scottish Government.”

UNISON Scotland’s Plug The Gap campaign has pushed the Scottish government to recognise the problem, but the union is demanding further action. While the Scottish government announced a funding package for local government earlier this month, UNISON says it does not go far enough to protect the essential services our communities rely on.

UNISON is the largest union representing local government workers in Scotland.

UNISON’s local government campaign Plug the Gap is calling for:
1. Securing the long term financial stability of local government: calling for urgent investment in local government to protect jobs and pay for the future.

2. Rewarding local government workers: for the vital services that local government workers provide to our communities.

3. Shaping local government for the future: looking at how services and roles will change as a result of the pandemic

4. Consolidation of the Living Wage: Delivery of full consolidation of the living wage for all across Scotland

UNISON letter to Kate Forbes can be found here:

The letter highlights need for urgent for local government it says: “While we welcome the recognition that the Scottish Government needs to do something to address the financial crises local government is in we remain concerned that this ‘package’ does not solve the problem.

“The headline that this package was ‘worth up to £750m’ was misleading. Our understanding is that only £139m of this was ‘new’ money (£49m of which had already been announced). The remainder of the package would only be available if local authorities made full use of the ‘fiscal flexibilities’ being opened up to them. These fiscal flexibilities will be more attractive to some councils than others but that they are no substitute for a fair funding settlement.”

For further information:
Johanna Baxter: 07817 120894
Danny Phillips / Trisha Hamilton, communications officers: 07944 664110 / 07903 853054