Government urged: ‘invest in council services or lose them’

Unison said many local authorities will have to cut jobs and services due to gaps in funding.

Government urged: ‘invest in council services or lose them’ Getty Images
Holyrood: Urged to invest in council services.

The Scottish Government must invest in council services or lose them, a union has said.

Unison said many local authorities will have to cut jobs and services due to gaps in funding.

As well as increased strain from the coronavirus pandemic, union officials said a decade of cuts has left councils under “severe financial strain”.

The union is meeting Finance Secretary Kate Forbes on Thursday, with demands also being made for the £500 bonus payment to be extended to all public service workers who have helped during the pandemic.

Johanna Baxter, Unison’s head of local government, said: “We know that many local authorities are now recasting their budgets and are looking at service cuts as a result of the financial crises they are in.

“The Scottish Government needs to step up to protect the vital jobs and services they provide and reward local government workers who have gone above and beyond in keeping our communities safe during the pandemic.

“This is a crisis of unprecedented scale.”

She added: “We have already seen £2bn of ‘efficiencies’ taken out of local government over the last decade and the pandemic has led to a double whammy of extra demand for services alongside a substantial loss of income.

“If the Scottish Government doesn’t invest in local government now we stand to lose some of the vital public services we all rely on.”

Mark Ferguson, chairman of Unison’s local government committee, said: “Unison will be calling on Kate Forbes to recognise the efforts of workers equally and extend the £500 bonus payment to all public service workers who we have relied upon during this pandemic and beyond.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said the value of the overall Covid-19 support package given to councils is worth more than £1bn.

He added: “We will continue to work together with Cosla and local authorities to ensure we are doing everything within our power to save jobs, protect our public services and reboot our economy.

“We are hugely grateful to the efforts over recent months of the many key workers in different sectors across Scotland as they have risen to the challenge of responding to the pandemic, including local government workers.

“The £500 payment recognises the particular debt we all owe to health and care staff, who have been – and continue to be – on the very front line of this crisis, helping to save lives and to protect us all.”