Published 02 December 2022
West Dunbartonshire Council has joined local authorities across Scotland in a united plea to the Scottish Government for more financial assistance to avoid the loss of everyday services.
A joint letter, signed by the directors of finance at all 32 councils and sent to Deputy First Minister John Swinney, warned that some services could be ‘stopped or reduced’ unless more money is allocated by Holyrood.
In West Dunbartonshire the Council is facing an unprecedented funding shortfall with the difference between the funding/income received and the cost of delivering our services anticipated to be in excess of £20million.
This situation has been compounded by a range of factors including increases in inflation, utilities, fuel, materials and employee costs.
A range of proposed saving options will be presented at the December meeting of the Council and elected members will face difficult decisions to address the budget gap.
The correspondence, sent on Thursday, emphasises that public-facing services such as schools, social care and waste collection would suffer without extra funding.
“The choices come down to reducing services, stopping services and ultimately, reducing the number of jobs,” the letter states. “This is bad news for individuals, families, communities and economies across Scotland.”
The finance directors also urged the Scottish Government to resist any attempts to ‘claw back’ any funding that local authorities were reliant on, pointing out they were facing ‘over £1 billion of pressures in 2023/24’. Their letter explained to do so would cause ‘serious issues’ not just for councils, but the communities they serve.
“Put simply, it will mean less money for school food, classroom support, family support, youth work, economic development, libraries and other key services that are critical to supporting the most vulnerable,” the letter states.
This stark message was today supported by Councillor Martin Rooney, Leader of West Dunbartonshire Council, who said: “This is our most significant financial challenge since our inception as a Council and it comes at a time where our residents rely on our services more than ever.
“They need our help but instead we are forced to consider distressing cost-saving options that will negatively impact on our communities, with our most vulnerable citizens particularly affected.
“This time of unprecedented financial crisis is the moment when the Scottish Government must step up to help local authorities to continue to provide these vital services. Without additional funding the consequences of the cuts ahead will be felt in communities for years to come.”
Deputy Leader Councillor Michelle McGinty added: “Helping the most vulnerable families navigate this cost of living crisis is a key priority for the Council but we cannot do that with one hand tied behind our back.
“Without further Scottish Government funding we will be forced to reduce services that will have a real and damaging impact on the lives of the residents we serve. While we will always strive to protect the most vulnerable people within our community, it is inevitable that cuts to public services tend to be felt by those who rely upon our help the most.
“I appeal to Mr Swinney to pay heed to the stark warning provided this week by the finance directors of all 32 Councils – and call on the Scottish Government to do more to help us avoid the serious consequences that lie ahead for our communities without further support.”