All Things Scotland: Is the existence of local government under-threat?

Welcome to All Things Scotland- LGIU’s weekly collation of everything local government in Scotland!

As the effects of the 23/24 Scottish Government budget continue to percolate through Council budgets, this week’s edition of All Things Scotland brings you the key reports, policies and updates for local government in Scotland, and takes a look at local government learnings from Ireland!

LGIU Scotland updates- Find all this and more on the LGIU Scotland page!

Briefing- Local Government in Scotland – financial challenges, but councils are responding well

Briefing- Centralisation Nation – report by Centre for Cities and Resolution Foundation

Briefing-  Up to standard? The condition of social housing in the UK

Briefing- Vulnerable young people: why they are missing out on education and care?

Publication- In Conversation with… Pippa Milne, Chief Executive of award-winning Council, Argyll and Bute

Blog- What will the National Care Service mean for local government in Scotland?


Restrictive, demoralising and cloaked in uncertainty

To understand the ramifications of what the much-debated Scottish Government budget means for local government, this new in-depth LGIU Briefing explores how the budget has influenced funding for Councils through the Provisional Scottish Local Government Financial Settlement for 2023-24. You can read the full briefing here.

Headlining this week the BBC showed the difficult measures facing Scottish Council budgets this year. Containing feedback from 30 Scottish Councils, measures include;

  • Aberdeenshire councillors are considering the impact of rises of 3-10% in Council Tax
  • Falkirk Council is offloading 133 properties
  • East Renfrewshire Council has decided to sell its distinctive civic number plate HS 0
  • Moray Council is proposing a 10% increase in the cost of burying the dead.

Compounding the existential commentary on local government finance this week, the Education Secretary announced that for the annual funding of £145.5 million delivered to local authorities for education, if teacher numbers and support staff are not maintained the  Scottish Government will withhold or recoup funding allocated for these purposes.

Lending a long-term lens to Council’s struggles, new IFS research outlines that even if Scottish councils increased council tax by 5% a year for two years, they may still face real-terms cuts to their funding. You can find the IFS research here.

Housing & Planning

Upcoming events!

Local authorities play an important role in developing healthy, sustainable neighbourhoods and ensuring that there are enough high-quality homes. We have picked out a few items from our huge library of local government content to help start your 2023 well informed.

The Improvement Service, Scottish Rural Action and Geoxphere are hosting a free evening webinar for community councillors to learn more about Community Map Scotland. Taking place on Wednesday 15th February at 6pm, you can book your place here!

In a bid to reduce inefficiencies for Council’s buying additional housing stock, the Scottish Government opened a 8-week consultation on removing tax on additional properties when buying affordable housing stock. 

What’s next for rent freezes and eviction bans? SPICe’s latest spotlight blog examines the detail behind recent Scottish Government announcements on the rental sector.

9 local authorities in Scotland are set to receive a share of £10 million in funding from the Scottish Government to transform vacant and derelict lands, with the funding shared between 15 projects. You can find the full breakdown of successful applicants here!

Economic impacts of Edinburgh’s short-term letting controls are the focus of a report in the Scotsman following concerns from organisers of the Fringe Festival.

Open access research involving the University of Glasgow examines the “death of the high street” in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Read the full research here!

Updates in the local government sector

For more on attitudes to local democracy, read this LGIU briefing that summarises the key arguments in a report commissioned from Onward and outlines its potential relevance for local government.

How is Scotland Performing? SPICe’s latest blog takes a look at how Scotland’s National Performance Framework is faring in a new blog!

Audit Scotland’s new publication examines the background for gender pay gap reporting in the public sector finding only “marginal improvement in gender pay gap figures in 14 of the 20 public bodies compared to previous years.”

Carol Beattie is to remain as Chief Executive of Stirling Council following a meeting with senior Stirling Councillors who accepted the request to cancel the resignation process.

Find out how May’s local government elections impact on Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa festival and committee here!

Additional funding has been secured to support work to integrate refugees across Scotland. The £1.6 million in funding will focus on the development of a refreshed New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy, ensuring refugees and asylum seekers are supported to make their new communities their home.

While wholesale gas prices for 2023-24 are down over 70% from the August 22 peak, the Resolution Foundation spotlight looks at what the big fall in energy prices might mean for household and government finances.

 The Scottish Government is consulting the public on plans for new Community Wealth Building legislation – the first of its kind in the world – as part of its wider strategy to transform Scotland’s economy. Proposing a new legal duty on Councils to align their economic levers towards CWB, you can out more about the first Scottish Council’s experience with CWB here!

Climate action

How are Councils around the world battling air quality?

Check out this LGIU Global Local on how local governments around the world are helping to improve air quality and reduce exposure to harmful pollutants.

Leading the policy agenda into February is a new report from the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee. Announcing that Scotland will not meet its ambitious target of being net zero by 2045 without a more empowered local government sector, the report outlined the importance of local democracy by highlight local governments democratic credentials, local knowledge, a capacity to lead by example and well-placed partnerships.

Termed a “watershed moment for tackling climate action”, Cllr Gail Macgregor, COSLA Environment and Economy Spokesperson used the report to drive home local governments need for closer collaboration with Scottish Government, a clear costed roadmap for local governments role and more funding and budget flexibility.

Part 2 of a report from Dr. Colin Church identifies key actions in the decarbonisation of residual waste infrastructure. You can the full report here!

A four-year analysis by Trees for Life shows that most of Scotland’s globally-unique Caledonian pinewoods are on a ‘knife-edge’ and could become the last generation in a line stretching back to the last ice age, says the first major study into their health for over 60 years.

Health, social care and education

What will the National Care Service mean for local government in Scotland?

LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre is working with experts at the University of Birmingham to investigate the potential impact of a new National Care Service in Scotland and you can find our latest update here!

A new BBC report looks behind the doors of an innovative project in Glasgow which aims to stabilise alcoholics by giving them alcohol. Read the full report here.

From the Scottish Government this week, plans to further introduce Scottish Government benefits have been published as part of an updated Social Security Programme Business Case. This forms the context for a recent SPICe blog which asks why is Scotland spending an additional £1 billion on social security?

Projects supporting people most at risk of social isolation and loneliness will receive a share of almost £1 million support funding announced this week.

Public Health Scotland released two key reports with implications for local government

  • The first report examines the public health framework for prevention and the key contribution NHSScotland makes to preventing poor health outcomes.
  • A second report marks the end of a series being undertaken by researchers at Frontier Economics which looks at the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing on the alcoholic drinks industry in Scotland.

Learnings from Ireland

Places are unique, but so many of the challenges faced by local governments are shared with their colleagues across countries and across continents. To promote the sharing of local government best practice and innovation, check out this two policy innovations from Ireland

What would your Council colleagues do with an innovation fund from the Chief Executive?

Find out how a Fingal County Council Executive Engineer spearheaded a new award-winning project on weather stations in schools.

Where could Scotland go with EV infrastructure?

While Scotland debates the rates of charging points and Transport Scotland’s vision remains “drafted”, Ireland’s new Electric Vehicles Charging Infrastructure Strategy 2022 – 2025 and new €15 million scheme, will support the roll-out of publicly accessible, fast-charging for sports clubs and communities across the island of Ireland, in line with the recently launched National EV Charging Infrastructure Strategy.

A meaningful use of citizens assembly?

In January, Ireland saw the release the Dublin Citizen’s Assembly report on a directly elected Mayor for Dublin. With international insights provided by LGIU Ireland’s Content Commissioner, Dr. Sean O’Riordáin, you can read how 67 randomly-selected members recommend a powerful directly elected Mayor model for Dublin. 

Finally, keep your eyes peeled for new Irish transport infrastructure projects this year. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has allocated funds to Ireland’s local authorities with a view to spending €290 million on walking and cycling infrastructure in 2023, and you can find the full local authority and project breakdown here!

You can find all this and more in our new All Things Ireland edition here!

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