All Things Scotland – What does the Spring 2023 budget mean for local government in Scotland? (Hint: Not much yet)

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

Breathing a sigh of relief that the UK Government’s Spring 2023 budget did not bring the same chaos as September 2022, this week’s edition of All Things Scotland picks apart the key budget developments, as well as looking at key reports and updates to keep you informed and connected on Scottish local government.

Fresh analysis from LGIU Scotland

Briefing – 2023 Budget – the highlights and what it means for local government

Briefing – National Care Service: has this idea become a white elephant that nobody wants to own?

Briefing- Challenges and opportunities facing the rental sector in 2023 and beyond

Article – International school meals day – How Scottish local government is doing their part

Next week’s briefing looks at in-work poverty and what councils are doing to mitigate the impacts.

Finance - budgets, cuts and council tax rises

The state of local government finance 2023: survey results

To better understand the true picture of council finances in England, LGIU Local Democracy Research Centre surveyed chief executives, directors of finance, and council leaders and cabinet members on topics related to local government finance. LGIU plan to perform a similar survey in Scotland later in 2023.




Scotland’s public finances – unprecedented challenges for 2023-24

This briefing uses Audit Scotland’s recent report, Scotland’s Public Finances – challenges and risks, to explore the difficult choices acting Finance Minister, John Swinney, faces in preparing the 2023-24 Scottish Budget.

Many of us watching the UK Government budget on Wednesday afternoon were left scratching our heads on what exactly this means for Scotland – and whether the mere 21 mentions of Scotland in the 122-page document infer the UK Government simply forgot about Scotland.

Nonetheless, as Fraser of Allander Institute aptly puts it, “underneath the surface” there are some important reflections for Scotland:

  • For Universal Credit, the Work Capability Assessment will be abolished and the existing assessment for receipt of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will be used instead as a passport. In Scotland, where PIP is being replaced with an Adult Disability Payment and other changes to the welfare framework can be found here.
  • In a master class of creative ambiguity, the Spring Budget 2023 included an additional £320 million of funding for the Scottish Government through the Barnett formula. With no documents (yet) released on what this breakdown means for the measures released in England that already exist in Scotland, SPICe comments that “it appears that the bulk of these additions come from the UK Government’s childcare policy with most of these Barnett consequentials flowing in 2024-25.”
  • £1.5m to Moray Council, subject to business case, to help fund repairs to Cloddach Bridge.
  • £8.6m for Scotland’s festival economy which ” could help build a permanent headquarters for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival” and “create year-round opportunities for local artists and talent across Edinburgh festivals” begging the question of what sort of parameters will be attached and who will deliver the spending?
  • One proposed investment zone will be in Scotland with the exact details of this subject to negotiations between the Scottish and UK government.
  • Finally, Fraser of Allander points out that a 12.6% RPI rise in Draught Relief and a Non-draught alcohol duty increase of 10.1% duty coincides with the 20p plus deposit for Deposit Return Scheme in August 2023, making August particularly painful for those in hospitality.

Source – Fraser of Allander Institute and SPICE Spotlight

In other finance news…

What's on in Holyrood?

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.

Key local government updates in Parliament..

  • Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth met with Glasgow City Council to ensure the M8 is kept operational and expanded upon the “positive environmental changes for the city.”, with a focus on recent active travel innovations in Woodside.
  • A debate on motion tabled by Edward Mountain, on behalf of the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, looked at the role of local government and its cross-sectoral partners in financing and delivering a net zero Scotland.
  • Following 4 visits to Stirling, Dundee, Aberdeen and Orkney, the debate emphasised the view of one Council leader about trying to “think strategically about their carbon footprint when they are wondering how they will fill potholes and keep schools open.”, as well as the knowledge and skills gap within local government.
  • Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands outlined “that action needs to be taken on second homes” in island communities and that they are to explore with COSLA the proposal of giving local authorities powers to increase council tax on second homes.
  • Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth responded to questions on the need to enhance knowledge sharing on innovations related to decarbonising transport from the islands by outlining the need for a careful study of the island community climate change action plans.
  • Following a motion lodged by Jackie Baillie, The Parliament thanked West Dunbartonshire Kinship Care and West Dunbartonshire Council for providing stability and support for care for over a 100 families in the West Dunbartonshire area.
  • Parliament also commended, St Andrew’s First Aid (SAFA), Scottish Primary School Project, which provides training sessions to school teachers in the Stirling Council area aims to equip schools with the necessary resources to teach first aid within primary school classrooms.
  • Finally, on NPF-4, Minister Tom Arthur, “will shortly lay regulations in the Parliament that will set the arrangements for preparation of a new generation of place-focused local development plans, which we will support with guidance on how councils can deliver on the ambitions in NPF4 through their own plans.”

Top 5 MSP questions!

  1. MSP Stuart McMillan asked, “Will the Government consider a detailed business case from Inverclyde Council?”
  2. MSP Edward Mountain raised the need for local Councils to work with farmers and provide equipment such as snow ploughs to help clear roads.
  3. MSP Jackie Dunbar questioned the Minister for Parliamentary Business on the timeline on the introduction of compulsory sale orders.
  4. MSP Marie McNair asked about the cost pressures facing Councils relating to private finance initiatives and public-private partnership contracts, with a focus on West Dunbartonshire.
  5. MSP Willie Rennie raised the question of how Fife Council can develop its local development plan in tandem with the implementation of control areas.

Housing, planning and infrastructure

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.

  • Trams in Leith! Sort-of. 2 tester trams rolled down Leith for the first time in 65 years as the £207.3m Trams to Newhaven project aims to open to the public soon.
  • A new blog from Scotland’s Parliament Information Centre examines the scale of empty homes in Scotland and looks at the measures in place to tackle the 43,000 homes which have been empty for 6 months or more.
  • Meanwhile, the focus of the British Red Cross report this week was on the 6,800 Ukrainians “living in limbo” in Scotland which takes a look at the 2,415 people staying on two chartered passenger liners where the majority of rooms are windowless.
  • In the same week, Edinburgh Live reports how over 20 Ukrainian refugees are now homeless after arriving in the city reaffirming the calls in the British Red Cross report that the Scottish Government and COSLA should implement a rent deposit scheme to help Ukrainians meet the upfront costs of private rental and pay their deposits/act as a guarantor.
  • New reports from the Chartered Institute of Housing warn that “local authority progress on homelessness prevention and the scaling up of Housing First is at risk if Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP) work ends abruptly.
  • Supported by Fife Council, the report finds that 80% of local authorities taking part in the research faced workforce difficulties with recruiting and retaining and no local authorities who took part in the research reported that they would have achieved all aims of their RRTP within the five-year timescale.
  • Glasgow City Council considers a new action plan to expedite the “essential repurposing” of properties in Glasgow. Lobbying for changes on taxation and additional powers, Glasgow aims for an affordable housing pilot project and a repurposing pilot in the former commercial business district.

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.

National Care Service Bill paused until June

MSPs have voted to postpone the Bill till the end of June 2023 to give more time for “complex and extensive” scrutiny of the proposals. COSLA Health and Social Care Spokesperson, Councillor Paul Kelly, commented,

“We welcome the opportunity to use this time for a meaningful and detailed discussion with Local Government and other partners to make sure that we get the much needed reform of social care right.” (COSLA)

Meanwhile, hailed as the “biggest pay offer in 20-years”, a new pay deal for teachers agreed by the Scottish Government and COSLA will amount to a cumulative rise of 33% for most teachers since January 2018. With 90% of Educational Institute of Scotland balloted members backing the deal, the series of long-running strikes is set to end and you can find out more about the new pay offers here.

This week, NASUWT teaching union narrowly voted to accept a pay offer after a long-running dispute, meaning there is no “no possibility of further strike action in Scottish schools.” (BBC News)

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.

  • The big news from the Scottish Government this week was the announcement of the new nationwide network of Climate Action Hubs to help widen participation in climate action. With funding of £4.3m, the hub network follows the success of pilots in the Highlands and North East and is set to be delivered in 2023/34.
  • Following similar action in Dundee City Council, Glasgow City Council has now voted to support action up to and including a ban on disposable vapes following motions by Councillors Jon Molyneux and Holly Bruce.
  • East Lothian Council received its third annual update on the Council’s Climate Change Strategy 2020-2025  noting achievements such as new certified training in Carbon Literacy available to all Council staff and a reduction of 15.2% in the Council’s emissions since 2019/2020.
  • A new renewable energy map of Scotland from Scottish Parliament Information Centre allows you to explore where renewable energy projects are in Scotland.
  • Zero Waste Scotland new food waste campaign draws on research that many living in Scotland still view tinned food as being less healthy than other foods and a last resort and aims to raise awareness of the benefits of tinned food.

As the much-debated Deposit Return Scheme picks up pace, key updates include;

  • All three SNP leadership contenders have proposed pausing or changing the deposit return scheme
  • Fraser of Allander Institute new post “The Deposit Return Scheme – a window into what’s to come?” views the DRS holistically from the point of view of Scotland’s long-term journey to net-zero.
  • 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.
  • Biffa, Circularity Scotland’s official DRS logistics service partner, released details of the £80m infrastructure investments being made in anticipation of the scheme.

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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