COSLA chief warns cuts would result in 'severe consequences' for jobs

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) has said that any more cuts to local government funding will result in "severe consequences'' for jobs across the country.

Speaking in advance of the Scottish Government laying out its spending plans for next year, Cola president and Councillor David O'Neill said that certain ``political choices'' which lead to job cuts would have a ``detrimental'' impact on local economies and communities.

In November, a forecast by the Accounts Commission predicted that Scotland's councils could be facing a shortfall of more than £550 million in just two years' time.

Mr O'Neill said: "There were 7,000 job losses arising from the £350 million cut to Scottish councils last year.

"A further reduction in budget of similar proportions, on an already reduced base, will have even more severe consequences for job losses in councils and have a wider knock on effect for jobs within communities.

"The Scottish Government needs to remember that in many areas the council is the largest employer and therefore a cut in council jobs has a devastating knock on effect for people and local economies.

"Any further reductions in funding for councils, combined with an expectation that statutory services such as education and social care are maintained, can only mean a disproportionate reduction in discretionary services such as economic development.

"A reduction in that support can only mean much less opportunity for job creation and a reduced opportunity to tackle inequality. This will have a detrimental impact on the local economies affected, especially in many areas still suffering from the financial downturn.''

In response to the comments, a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: ``Audit Scotland last week published their independent report into council finances and found that local government had experienced the same reduction in funding as was imposed on the Scottish Government by Westminster.

"It is therefore clear that local government has been treated very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government.

"Local government finance settlements were maintained in Scotland on a like for like basis over the period 2012-16 with extra money for new responsibilities resulting in total settlements of £10.8 billion in 2014-15 and of over #10.85 billion in 2015-16.

"Taking into account the addition of the #250 million to support the integration of health and social care, the overall reduction in 2016-17 funding equates to less than 1% of local government's total estimated expenditure in 2016-17. We remain committed to engaging Cosla in further dialogue on a range of issues.

"The Finance Secretary will publish the Scottish Draft Budget later this month that will support our economy, tackle inequality and provide high-quality public services for all.''

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