Cosla calls for councils to have more tax powers to properly resource Covid-19 recovery

Councils must have more powers over tax, an organisation representing local authorities in Scotland has said.

The demand is one of several in a new Blueprint for Local Government document launched by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla).

The organisation highlighted the role of local authorities in response to the coronavirus pandemic and warned without “proper resourcing” cuts to council services are inevitable, risking the country’s recovery from the virus.

Among the demands are new powers to set and raise taxes.

It also calls for a commitment to “fair funding” including funding for health and social care which “accounts for our new financial realities” and reversing ring-fencing of cash for children’s services and education.

“The blueprint we are launching today provides a narrative around the kind of country we want, and about the changes that could make a real difference to communities across the country,” Cosla vice-president councillor Graham Houston said.

“The value of local government can be seen in our response to Covid-19, where councils have taken decisive action to support communities, people, and businesses.

“Whether delivering food or medicine, providing shelter for the homeless, supporting volunteers or keeping many essential services running, local government has been the face of the response for many.

“The local government workforce, which is the largest in Scotland, has fundamentally changed the way it works to reduce the disruption caused to everyday life.

“Scottish local government must be further empowered to bring about the change we now need.

“The financial impacts of Covid-19 have been severe and have placed extreme pressure on already strained council budgets and on our workforce.

“Without proper resourcing we will see reductions in spending and inevitable cuts to services, furthering the inequalities highlighted by the pandemic and putting at risk the very recovery we seek.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have taken exceptional measures in every area of government as we deal with the challenges of Covid-19 and that is particularly clear in our support for local services.

“To date, the Scottish Government has committed £379 million of additional funding to local government for Covid-19 measures, on top of the local government finance settlement of £11.4 billion from this year’s budget.”

She said the government will continue to work with Cosla and councils, as well as pressing the UK Government for additional funding.

“Both the level and the distribution of funding to local authorities is the subject of continuous discussion between the Scottish Government and Cosla,” she added.

“Local authorities are autonomous bodies, and it is the responsibility of individual councils to manage their own budgets and to allocate the total financial resources available to them on the basis of local needs and priorities, having first fulfilled their statutory obligations and the jointly agreed set of national and local priorities.”

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