Call for Evidence on the Long-Term Financial Sustainability of Local Government

Call for Evidence on the Long-Term Financial Sustainability of Local Government

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee has today, 2 July 2019, launched a call for written evidence on its pre-budget scrutiny into the long-term financial sustainability of local government.

Local authorities deliver a range of services, some of which are set by statute or by arrangements with the Scottish Government, and others at their own discretion depending on what local needs there are and what resources are available. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the total resources available to local authorities to deliver services have fallen in real terms and they have had to make savings. At the same time, the number of responsibilities placed on councils has increased and they are being asked to do ‘more with less’. Wider demographic changes – for instance an increase in the number of older people and population shifts, with some communities expanding and others contracting – present both risks and opportunities. Councils also have to contend with the uncertain impact of Brexit on local communities and local economies.

The Committee is seeking to assess the long-term financial health of local authorities, within this challenging context and find out whether councils are well placed to continue to provide good local services into the next decade. This scrutiny will feed into recommendations the Committee will make later this year, as the Scottish Government finalises its 2020-21 budget plans.

The Committee is particularly interested in hearing views on how local authorities can respond positively to current challenges and what practical steps they (and the Scottish Government) can take to help local authorities become “future proofed” against foreseeable financial risks. We would like to hear of any approaches to enhanced financial sustainability that local authorities are using now and which they have found to be effective.

Views are welcome from the local government sector itself and from any experts or individuals with an interest in local government and local services and with views about how best to ensure that the sector has a sustainable future.

It would be helpful if written submissions could address the following questions:

1. What are the big medium-term (5-year) and longer-term (10+ year) financial challenges for Scottish local authorities?

2. How effectively are councils addressing these challenges? Do councils currently have all the powers they need to do so?

3. What practical steps should councils take, and what good practice should councils adopt, to plan for the medium and long-term and to anticipate financial risks? If you are a council answering this question, it would be helpful if you could clarify if you practice medium and long-term financial planning and outline briefly what form this takes.

4. What alternative models of planning for, and delivering, council services (for example, joint working initiatives) could help local authorities make efficiency savings and/or deliver better services?

5. Are there any other issues relating to the long-term sustainability of Scottish local government which you wish to bring to the attention of the Committee?

The closing date for receipt of submissions is Friday 23 August 2019.

How to submit your evidence

Please note that in most cases your written submission will be published on the Scottish Parliament’s website and may be quoted in the Committee’s report or in Committee meetings (which are public and broadcast). 

If you wish to request that your submission be published without your name, please contact the clerks on LocalGovernmentandCommunities@parliament.scot

Before making a submission, please read our Privacy Notice about submitting your views to a Committee. This tells you about how we process your personal data.

Your response does not need to cover all of the priority areas specified and can just focus on those that are relevant to you or your organisation. Also, you are welcome to provide other information that you feel would be relevant. 

How to submit your views

If possible, we would be grateful if you could keep your submission to a maximum of 4 sides of A4. 

We welcome written views in English, Gaelic, Scots or any other language. Due to the time required to process and analyse evidence, late submissions will only be accepted with the agreement of the Committee.

Submissions should be sent by email to:

LocalGovernmentandCommunities@parliament.scot

If you cannot submit electronically you may send in a hard copy written submission. Please send them to:

Local Government and Communities Committee Clerk
Room T3.60
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

If you have any further questions regarding the Committee’s scrutiny of this topic, please contact the Committee clerking team at the above e-mail address.

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