Scotland Democracy, devolution and governance

General Election 2024 – COSLA view on implications for local government

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Vice-President of COSLA Cllr Steven Heddle

Councillor Steven Heddle, Vice President of COSLA outlines why the ‘significant seven asks’ in the Local Government Positioning Statement are important to local people, our communities and our local democracy:

“As COSLA’s Vice President, it’s clear to me that if the incoming government at Westminster does the right thing and works with its devolved governments to unlock councils’ potential, this will allow local government to get on with what we do best – delivering essential services on behalf of our communities – and the people of Scotland will be the major beneficiaries.

This was the thinking and reasoning behind our ‘Significant Seven’ asks of the incoming Westminster Government following the General Election on July 4.

At the most basic level, our request means they would recognise and respect our sphere of government and the democratic mandate Scotland’s elected local representatives have from the communities we serve.

It is without doubt that Scotland’s councils are key to the reforms that are required locally so it is only right that the incoming UK Government does what it can to work with devolved governments to meet our asks at pace.

The essential services delivered by councils affect and impact all our lives. Councils are at the heart of providing opportunities for everyone to thrive, whether that be providing education, employability, and skills programmes, supporting the most vulnerable through social work and social care, driving local economic growth, providing fair work employment, ensuring there is adequate high-quality safe and warm housing, or keeping our local streets clean and communities accessible to all.

It is undeniable therefore that councils are the key to unlocking the best for our communities and the importance of these services cannot be emphasised enough. But they need to be funded properly, and we need the freedom to operate and deliver as we see fit within our local contexts, responding to local needs and circumstances.

Every year at budget setting time, the headlines in our local and national press discuss the difficult financial choices councils need to make, whether to reduce – or even cut – vital services, or ending funding for essential voluntary sector and community partners. But behind the headlines, this is about more than money – councils need to have the autonomy, in line with the democratic mandates they hold, to operate freely to deliver in the best interests of our communities.

Unfortunately given recent budget settlements, councils have no choice but to protect core statutory services, especially with the unprecedented financial challenges we are all experiencing. But budgets can only stretch so far, creating risks to many non-statutory services our local communities rely on, such as programmes supporting children and young people, sports and leisure facilities and public transport.

Local government holds the key to unlocking the potential in local areas and working differently with partners. Councils have an unrivalled understanding of the context, challenges, and opportunities in individual communities. Scotland’s councils are a unique and intrinsic part of local neighbourhoods, working hard to create the safe, healthy, vibrant, and empowered communities we all want to see.”

Councillor Steven Heddle

COSLA Vice President

See also LGIU’s new campaign “100 days to save local government: General Election 2024“.
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