Covid Recovery Strategy (Local Authorities)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 8th June 2022.

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Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

8. To ask the Scottish Government what assistance it is providing to local authorities as part of its Covid recovery strategy to help them resume normal services and manage staff absences. (S6O-01189)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The 2022-23 local government finance settlement of almost £12.7 billion provides local government with a fair and affordable settlement, even in challenging circumstances. As long as councils act lawfully and first fulfil their statutory obligations and jointly agreed national and local priorities, it is a matter for each council to manage its resources and use the total budget that it has available on the basis of local needs.

The Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities have agreed shared priorities for recovery that focus on targeting support for those who were most affected during the pandemic. Alongside the COSLA president, I chair the Covid recovery strategy programme board, which brings together a range of partners to co-ordinate activity, increase financial security for low-income households, enhance the wellbeing of children and young people, create good green jobs and fair work and deliver person-centred public services.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

Some local authorities are really struggling with high absences due to Covid-19. What discussions has the Scottish Government had with COSLA and/or individual local authorities that are still heavily impacted by staff absences?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Local authorities are independent corporate bodies, separate from the Scottish Government. They have the means and sustainability to manage their own workforces. However, I regularly engage with COSLA on a range of issues, so, if there are any concerns on that question that local authorities wish to draw to my attention and to discuss through COSLA, I would be happy to discuss those issues.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

In her statement to Parliament last week on the medium-term financial strategy, the finance secretary set out that local authorities will face an 8 per cent cut in their funding over the next four years. How does that level of cuts help them with Covid recovery?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

There are, of course, a range of financial instruments available to local authorities in addition to the measures that were announced last week by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy. The Government has always given a fair and affordable settlement to local government.

It is available to Mr Fraser to bring forward any alterations to the Government’s budget that he wishes to advance. We hear a lot of rhetoric on this question from the Conservatives, but we see absolutely no action or substance whatsoever. Until we get some action from the Conservatives, we will continue to deliver fair and affordable settlements for local government that enable them to deliver the public services on which we all depend.