All Things Scotland local government – Council budgets, housing updates and planning reports

Welcome to All Things Scotland – LGIU's weekly collation of everything local government in Scotland!

Dive into all things local government this week in Scotland. With SNP leadership campaigns in full swing ahead of voting opening on March 13th, this week we bring you key reports, updates and policy changes that shape local government in Scotland.

LGIU Scotland updates – Find all this and more LGIU Scotland page

Front and centre in LGIU Scotland this week was a new briefing on how Council’s are stepping up to the plate in tackling the cost of living pressures. Including case studies from Scottish Councils such as Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and Orkney, you can find the full policy briefing here!

Briefing: Read all about it – Councils and local journalism

Briefing: A light in the dark: progressive frontiers in local economies – report by CLES

Article: Celebrating Scotland’s Improvement Districts

Leadership: In conversation with Jim Savege, Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council

Updates for local authorities

Restrictive, demoralising and cloaked in uncertainty

To understand the ramifications of the much-debated and now signed-off Scottish Government budget means for local government, read LGIU’s new in-depth briefing which explores how the budget has influenced funding for Councils through the Provisional Scottish Local Government Financial Settlement for 2023-24.

For your diary!

  • COSLA Excellence Awards 2023 will take place on Thursday, 28 September 2023 in the Crieff Hydro Hotel as part of the COSLA Annual Conference. Applications for the awards process will open on April 3rd 2023 (read the categories and more here).
  • To mark International Women’s Day next week, a group of women from all political parties and from none, who are serving their North East communities in councils, the Scottish Parliament and the UK Parliament, have come together to share their experiences and to give encouragement to other women at this special in-person event at The Town House, Broad Street, Aberdeen.

LGIU’s 2023 Council budgets tracker: This week budgets were passed in nine new Council.

Council name Council tax rise
Aberdeen Council tax will rise by 5%
Aberdeenshire Council tax will rise by 4%
Angus Council tax will rise by 6%
Argyll and Bute Council tax will rise by 5%
Borders Council tax will rise by 5%
Clackmannanshire N/A
Dumfries and Galloway Council tax will rise by 6%
Dundee Council tax will rise by 4.75%
East Ayrshire Council tax will rise by 5%
East Dunbartonshire Council tax will rise by 5%
East Lothian Council tax will rise by 7%
East Renfrewshire Council tax will rise by 6%
Edinburgh Council tax will rise by 5%
Falkirk Council tax will rise by 7%
Fife Council tax will rise by 5%
Glasgow Council tax will rise by 5%
Highland Council tax will rise by 4%
Inverclyde Council tax will rise by 5.3%
Midlothian Council tax will rise by 5%
Moray Council tax will rise by 5%
North Ayrshire Council tax will rise by 5%
North Lanarkshire Council tax will rise by 5%
Orkney Council tax will rise by 10%
Perth and Kinross Council tax will rise by 3.9%
Renfrewshire Council tax will rise by 6%
Shetland Council tax will rise by 4.5%
South Ayrshire Council tax will rise by 5%
South Lanarkshire Council tax will rise by 5.5%
Stirling Council tax will rise by 7%
West Dunbartonshire Proposed 5% Council Tax increase
West Lothian Council tax will rise 5.8%
Western Isles Council tax to rise by 5%

Housing and planning

Why the new National Planning Framework can deliver Scotland’s environmental ambitions

Derek Robertson, Chief Executive of the Green Action Trust writes about the importance of the NPF4 for embedding climate and nature emergencies across planning policy and placing a stronger emphasis than ever before on the tangible actions that can address these twin crises.

Front and centre this week was the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership conference in Stirling. At the conference, projects in Dunoon, Aberdeenshire, Dundee and Dumfries were been announced as the winners of the 12th Scottish Empty Homes Awards, sponsored by Finders International. For more information, checkout this report Scottish Housing News here!

Also leading this week is the new report on town centre living from Scottish Futures Trust covering the findings from a 2022 working group which investigates the issues with, and opportunities for, the delivery of more town centre housing. It contains key case studies of town centre living approaches in Scottish Councils (you can find the full report here).

The Planner highlighted an interesting new pilot in South Ayrshire Council which entailed the creation of a community consultation platform, with interactive methods of engagement to improve community and other stakeholder involvement in local development plans (LDP).

From the Scottish Government, new guidance sets out private rented sector landlords’ responsibilities for ensuring their property meets updated standards have been published. Containing measures related to damp and mould, a key issue that plagued renters over winter. The guidance takes effect from March 1st 2024 and requires privately rented properties to have central heating, a kitchen with adequate space and facilities to prepare and store food, and common areas that are safe to use and properly maintained.

Modular housing was the focus of a new report from West Lothian Council. While Kilmarnock and the Ayrshire’s have witnessed recent modular projects, the report recommended that Quick Build Solutions are not an appropriate concept for the Council due to high construction costs, a lack of funding from the Scottish Government and the availability of suitable sites.

Scottish Borders Council has made a new call for sites as part of proposals to develop sufficient suitable authorised accommodation to help meet the identified housing needs of Gypsy/Travellers in the area.

Transforming Planning.Scot released a new look ahead to 2023 for eDevelopment. Aiming for service updates, eDevelopment is also set to deliver key projects such as a Payment Service, Gateway Service and Apply Service.

Finance – budgets, budgets, budgets. 

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

Amidst the gloom of a disappointing local government finance settlement and the financial constraints facing us in 2023-24, it is important to remember how well Scottish councils have responded to Covid-19, Brexit and increasing demand pressures over the past couple of years. This LGIU briefing looks at the main findings of the bulletin (focusing mainly on 2021-22) but also looks briefly at how councils are dealing with budget pressures in 2022-23 and the challenges for 2023-24 and beyond.

Scottish Government 23-24 budget

Last week the Scottish Government 2023-24 budget is passed through the Scottish Parliament, and with it came three new developments for local government.

  • £100m extra for councils for pay deals negotiated for the majority of local government employees by the Scottish Joint Council.
  • Separately, the Scottish Government has already confirmed it will provide an additional £156m – £33m in 2022-23 and £123m in 2023-24 to support a new pay offer for teachers which would see teacher salaries rise by 11.5% from April.
  • Promises to fund the revenue cost increases incurred by local authorities managing the inter-islands ferry network.
  • Lending a long-term lens to what local government finance will look like, new IFS research outlines that even if Scottish councils increased council tax by 5% a year for two years, they may still face real-term cuts to their funding.

Other finance updates

The Chief Statistician has released figures on local government finance in 2021-22. A comprehensive overview of the financial activity of local government, including revenue expenditure and income; capital expenditure and financing; reserves; debt; and pensions, local authorities net revenue expenditure in 2021-22 was £11,780m. Education and social work were the services with the highest net revenue expenditure, accounting for £5,867m and £3,817m respectively.

Community projects tackling poverty and disadvantage will receive £27m funding over the next three years in South East Glasgow, Inverness, West Lothian, South West Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, South West Edinburgh and the Borders.

CIPFA’s annual library survey reveals total expenditure on libraries in Great Britain fell 17% to £9,982 per 1,000 people in 2021/22, from £11,970 in 2020/21. This continues year-on-year declines in expenditure since 2018/19 when total expenditure stood at £12,646 per 1,000 people. CIPFA CEO, Rob Whiteman commented,

“It’s encouraging to see that library visits are increasing since the pandemic, but the same cannot be said for funding and income levels, which still lag behind. Libraries are certainly facing a difficult road ahead”.

A newly published independent review Scotland’s journey of achieving sustainable procurement outcomes 2002-2022. Concluding that local businesses, communities and the environment are benefiting from the Scottish Government’s procurement policies, which make it easier for small firms to secure contracts and specify that bidders must show support for their local area. Containing case studies from North Ayrshire Council, Falkirk Council, Renfrewshire Council and Dundee City Council over the period (you can find the full report here).

Health, social care and education

Leave no one behind: State of health and health inequalities in Scotland today

Health inequalities remain a major challenge for Scotland. This briefing highlights how the Scottish Government’s approach to public health needs to be more focused and supported with resources locally. It also covers the ‘implementation gap’ and advocates for more achievable short-term goals to complement the national performance framework.

New statistics highlight how 184,000 children and young people received £25 per week in Scottish Child Payment by the end of 2022. Ahead of extending Scottish Child Payment to under-16s, local authorities also made more than 1.1 million Bridging Payments across 2021 and 2022 to the families of school-age children worth a total of £169.3m.

Three organisations – Phoenix Futures, CrossReach, Maxie Richards Foundation – supporting people with problem drug use will receive more than £14m to increase the number of residential rehabilitation placements.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician published new statistics on the initial destinations and attainment of 2021-22 school leavers from Scotland’s publicly funded schools. The statistics show that 95.7% of 2021-22 school leavers were in a positive destination three months after the end of the school year. This was higher than in 2020-21 (95.5%) and the highest since the current time series began in 2009-10.

Audit Scotland’s recent publication calls on the Scottish Government to be clearer about how long it will take the NHS to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and to reform services (you can find the full report here).

Climate and the environment

How are Australian Councils leading the way on Deposit Return Schemes?

Driving a circular economy approach to soft plastic recycling. This new article uncovers how the City of Greater Bendigo’s new partnership with Close the Loop implements a circular economy for recyclable materials.

This was a busy week for the much-debated Deposit Return Scheme. Key updates this week included:

  • The registration deadline for producers. Claimed as a “milestone” from Circulatory Scotland, the 664 companies that have registered are responsible for 95% of drinks sold in single-use containers in Scotland.
  • However, the BBC reports that critics say they cover only about 16% of all producers that sell their drinks across the country.
  • March 1st opened the registration for Return Point Operators (RPOs). Most retailers and hospitality businesses that sell drinks to take away are legally required to operate a return point, with exemptions managed by Zero Waste Scotland.
  • All three SNP leadership contenders have proposed pausing or changing the deposit return scheme.

Consultations have opened on a new Scottish Government plan to end the sale of peat as part of wider plans to protect peatlands and reduce carbon emissions. Responses to the consultation will inform plans and timescales for moving away from using peat products in order to protect peatlands from further damage.

Highland’s Rewilding is the new owner of a 3,500-acre estate in Argyll. Following a £10m crowdfunding appeal, the new owner said it planned to restore the estate’s natural environment.

What's on in Holyrood?

LGIU’s latest parliamentary summary: all you need to know from Holyrood and Westminster

Our round-up service provides an easy-to-digest update on the progress of legislation currently in Holyrood and Westminister that is of relevance to local authorities in Scotland. This edition covers the progress of Bills on topics like animal welfare, online safety, energy, procurement and infrastructure.

Key committee reports:

  • Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee report – 21st February.
  • Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee – 28th February.
  • Health, Social Care and Sport Committee – 21st February.

Local government learnings from Ireland

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

Dublin Citizens’ Assembly on mayoral government

Our new LGIU Ireland policy briefing recaps how over seven months, Assembly members voted in favour of a powerful new Mayor with wide-ranging powers and responsibilities similar to other major international cities.

What would your local government 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 here.

How did Clare County Council win the local authority of the year award?

This new briefing showcases how Clare County Council – Ireland’s recently awarded Local Authority of the Year – delivers for its communities and enables its stakeholders and communities to ensure the county continues to develop as a place to live, work and visit.

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

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