A debate on local authority services and their provision is key to local authorities’ financial future, according to a report published today by the Local Government and Communities Committee.
The Local Government Finance Report acknowledges the difficult financial times local authorities are facing and suggests there should be a fundamental review of what they do and how they do it. This would ensure there are no ‘knee-jerk’ reactions which could impact on front-line services.
Committee Convener Duncan McNeil MSP said: “There is no doubt that local authorities are experiencing significant financial pressures and will have to make tough choices about the services they provide.
"While authorities should be looking at ways to share services and to make efficiency savings, it is not clear whether this will be enough to balance budgets.
"There needs to be a full and open debate about what services are provided and the quality and cost of those services and the committee hopes this report will stimulate such a debate.”
The report also makes a number of recommendations on shared services, pay, staffing levels, the impact of reduced funding on the voluntary sector, the sustainability of the council tax freeze and economic development.
The remit for the committee’s inquiry into local government finance was to “assess the potential effect of the current economic situation and other pressures on local authority finances; and to identify the key challenges likely to be faced by local authorities.”
It took evidence during September and October 2009, including a round-table session with a number of experts and commentators such as Professor Richard Kerley and the Rt Hon Henry McLeish.