The Scottish Government announced details of their Budget Settlement for councils last week. Official figures from local Government body COSLA highlight that there will be a £212million cut to core funding for Scottish councils in 2020/21. That includes: £95 million (1%) cut to councils in terms of their revenue budget and a £117m (17%) budget cut in from their capital budget.
In West Lothian, council officers are currently assessing the full details on how the Scottish Government's budget will impact on local services. The council was already assuming that approximately £33 million would be cut from local budgets over the next three years, £11 million in 2020/21 alone. Following the Scottish Government's Budget Settlement, early assessment of the figures suggest that the 2020/21 budget cut in West Lothian will now increase.
Local services have been significantly impacted since 2007 due to increasing costs associated with increasing demand for services, combined with restrictions on council budgets. During this period Scottish Government grant funding has been insufficient to meet rising costs. £121million of savings have already been delivered since 2007. Officers are currently working on detailed savings measures, which will enable the council to reduce costs, meet the budget shortfall and balance the budget. Councils have a legal obligation to set a balanced budget. The council's options to bridge the budget gap are limited and include: developing additional savings measures which will impact on services and raising council tax.
The Scottish Government has quoted figures on the amount available to local government in Scotland based on an assumption that all councils increase council tax by 4.84%. The council will set its budget and council tax levels for 2020/21 later this year. Leader of West Lothian Council, Lawrence Fitzpatrick, said: "Sadly, it has become the norm to expect to have to bridge a budget gap and cut services following the Scottish Government's Budget Settlement for councils. Following last week's announcement, early indications suggest that our 2020/21 settlement from the Scottish Government is worse than initially assumed. Officers are working through the exact details but there will certainly be a significant budget gap which is extremely disappointing."
Council Leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick added: "Year after year, the Scottish Government's funding to local councils is not enough to deliver local services and our communities have felt the impact of those real terms funding cuts. "Even at this late stage we'd call for the Scottish Government to provide additional funding for local government for 2020/21 to help us protect vital local services."