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Councils continue to deliver despite financial pressures, new report shows

 

Total current spending by Scottish councils has reduced by 11% in real terms from £17.18 billion to £15.30 billion in the last six years according to a new report.

 

The report also highlights that despite this 11% reduction across the period, the vast majority of productivity, output and outcome measures within councils have improved.

 

The Local Government Benchmarking Framework (LGBF) report examines indicators for every major service within local government, and provides detailed analysis of the national trends, and variations, across councils and between councils. This is a local government led improvement approach, and is designed to provide insight to promote collaboration and learning. There is a continuous improvement programme in place to refine the measures to ensure they remain relevant and focus attention on the areas which matter most to local government.

 

The main findings from the report show that reduction in spend has been variable across service areas:

 

  • education has been relatively protected (-4%),
  • child protection has grown (+19%),
  • adult social care has grown (+6%)
  • waste disposal spend has grown (+11%) linked to the transition from landfill to recycling.

 

Other areas have had substantial cuts to spending:

 

  • Leisure and culture services (-12%),
  • Parks and open spaces (-18%),
  • Roads maintenance (-21%)
  • Corporate & democratic services (-14%).

 

Even within prioritised areas, management and administration spend have been reduced to protect frontline spending.  Despite average real reductions of 11% across the period, the vast majority of productivity, output and outcome measures have improved.

 

Commenting on the report, David O’Neill, COSLA President, said: "There are some real positive things in today’s report – primarily that despite the financial pressures, Scotland’s councils continue to cope with austerity particularly in services that are of the utmost importance to communities. Two issues in particular are worth highlighting.

 

"Firstly on education, today’s report clearly shows that councils are making significant progress on improving the attainment for our most deprived pupils: a 25% improvement across the last five years.  Any education reform should build on what is already happening on the ground and should endeavour to improve on the current upward trajectory.

 

"As always, councils are not complacent and continuing effort will be needed to build on the achievements of the last five years.

 

"Secondly, spending on care for older people has grown in real terms across the period since 2010/11 but not at the level necessary to keep up with demographic change.

 

"Despite the fact that councils have worked hard to protect the care budget, demand for care is increasing very rapidly due to our aging population. The effect is that a greater level of resource has become targeted on a smaller number of people with very high needs. The balance between people supported at home and in residential care has shifted positively, but we are now running up against serious capacity issues across many parts of Scotland. The public sector is no longer the major provider of residential or homecare and care needs to be taken to sustain and develop the care market for the future. Annual budget cuts make this harder.

 

"So, in conclusion given the financial pressures faced by councils, today’s report shows that, whatever the difficulties, councils are continuing to improve services and support the best possible outcomes for our communities."

 

Visit the Local Government Benchmarking Framework website at www.improvementservice.org.uk/benchmarking/

 

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