COUNCILS are reaching a financial "tipping point" and need almost £12 billion "just to stand still", Cosla leaders claim.

Finance and Economy Secretary Kate Forbes will announce the Scottish Government's Budget on December 9. Cosla, which represents all 32 of the country's local authorities, says this must include the "reversal of historic budget cuts" that now threaten pandemic recovery and give local leaders the chance to raise more in taxes.

This includes removing the cap on council tax and taking forward plans for tourist taxes and the workplace parking levy.

Cosla’s resources spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor said: “Tackling the economic and health challenges created by the pandemic needs a local dimension – all the evidence and research backs this up.

“We fully support Scottish Government’s ambitions around economic transformation but that starts in every community.

“Local government has been the poor relation of recent Budgets and our local knowledge and links need to be used fully before we are past the point of no return. Our communities are starting to show the neglect of an under-funded local government.

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“Quite simply, what we need from this budget is proper funding to provide the everyday services our communities need and deserve.”

Holyrood and local leaders have committed to a Covid recovery strategy that includes "rebuilding public services, good, green jobs and fair work, financial security for low-income households and wellbeing of children and young people". Cosla's using the same messages as the foundation of its "Live Well Locally" campaign that urges Forbes to divert more cash to its members.

The organisation says core funding for day-to-day services "is not keeping pace with demand and other pressures" including increased costs of energy, labour and supplies.

To "thrive" post-pandemic, more than £1.5bn more most be provided, it claims.

According to the Scottish Government's five-year capital spending review, local government will receive £628 million in 2022-23 – £11m more than last year, with this cash ring-fenced for flood risk management. Cosla says the figure marks a real terms cut of 6% since 2013-14 and that thought there have been increases in the intervening years, most of that cash has been set aside to meet ministerial commitments on the expansion of early learning and childcare.

Just says after the conclusion of COP26 in Glasgow, Macgregor says council climate commitments will be put into question without sufficient funding from above, as well as the provision of specific services. The Dumfries and Galloway councillor says a drug and alcohol service in her area has gone from five to three days per week, asking: "At what point does it become one day?"

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And she says the need for spending on road networks could lead to a "policy battle with the Greens", who now share a place in government. Council spending on roads and transport has plunged by 17% between 2013-14 and 2021-22, according to estimates and Macgregor says Green policy to champion public transport are "not going to work in Dumfries and Galloway, but neither should they be tramping through potholes every day", adding: "In rural areas we need that investment."

The call comes not only one month before the budget announcement, but six months ahead of the 2022 local government elections.

Council tax rates were frozen for years before the cap was put in by ministers, with councils able to vary rates by up to 4.84%. This is lower than average rises in England and Wales. Since 2013-14, around £370m was provided in compensation for the freeze. At the last Budget, Forbes issued £90m to the local authorities who chose not to raise charges. The sum was the equivalent to an increase of around 3%.

Macgregor says any decision to put cost up now would be "a really difficult decision for leaders to have to make" but the option " needs to be there". Saying "I don't think we ever want to hammer households," she went on: "We need to have that local decision-making power."

The councillor, who leads budget negotiations for Cosla, was taking part in a virtual press conference alongside Cosla president Alison Evison. Macgregor says she has a "constructive" relationship with Forbes, who is "in principle very supportive of local government". However, she said local government is now reaching "a tipping point" over money.

Evison, of Aberdeenshire Council, says the upcoming election is "not playing into what we are doing here": "This is the Cosla voice speaking about what's needed for our local councils. That's not a part of this, this is about sustainable local services for our communities."

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She went on: "Enabling people to ‘Live Well Locally’ is a shared ambition across Scottish Government and local government, but the resources must be provided to deliver this at a local level in line with local democratic choice. Sadly cuts to councils’ core budgets over recent years have not allowed us to fully realise this shared ambition."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said the Budget will be "challenging" as Scotland "continues its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic without any Covid-19 funding from the UK Government": "Decisions on local government budget allocations for future years are subject to the outcome of the on-going negotiations with Cosla, the results of which will be confirmed in the Scottish Budget on December 9.

"However, despite successive cuts and austerity policies from the UK Government impacting on Scotland’s public finances, we have continued to treat local government very fairly, with councils' revenue funding having increased in cash terms by £1.3b or 12.1% between 2013-14 and 2021-22.

"The 2022-23 Scottish Budget will focus on delivering the new Programme for Government, reflecting challenges facing households, communities and businesses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic."