Scotland Finance

She works hard for the money

LGiU Scotland’s Kim Fellows follows up from her “Money Talks…” blog with some further reflections from the April meeting in response to some of the points made by a commentator on the first blog.

It all matters. In 1001 different ways councils deliver a myriad of both simple and incredibly complex interactions with the public on a daily basis. For example: litter is picked up; a carer spends time with a lonely person; vulnerable people are supported; cafes are inspected; and children get healthy meals in schools – to name a few services that are often overlooked.

Behind those numerous daily tasks is an army of dedicated public servants going above and beyond their duties to keep the show on the road.  Not bureaucrats – but hard working people, often part of the communities they serve, doing a consistently good job.

Local goverment funding pays for the obvious services schools, social care and our favourite – waste management. However beyond the bins, the meeting agreed that local government funding buys efficient and effective services at an operational level.

It is at a strategic level that the more difficult to answer questions are posed. Is local government funding with funding from partners delivering services that effectively tackle inequality (gender, rurality, economic and social) in a modern and diverse Scotland? Those are questions that are more difficult to answer. For example the so-called “problems on the high street” are not going away. As councils in Scotland become more dependent on local taxation “it is the economy, stupid” resonates deeply with public service providers. When shops are vacant, business rate yields go down and that has the potential to impact council services.

So imagine you are responsible for future proofing public services in Scotland. A Scotland where, post Brexit, we are raising more and more of our own funding, producing and eating more of our own food and energy whilst also delivering a wider range of welfare benefits to citizens.  This, after all, is the path we are on in this brave new world of public services in Scotland – funding and working in collaboration with other partners to ensure delivery will be fit for the 21st century. Designed to meet the needs of the local population who live in a globally connected, ever-changing world.

Perhaps this is the time to put the public even more at the heart of delivery. After all, the public need to care deeply about all local services, not just the National Health Service. The meeting agreed to return to this theme, in particular considering the economic impacts of different means of raising revenue including local taxation and how that funding can be best used. As the local governance review proceeds in Scotland it is important that everyone contributes views and ideas into the process at an appropriate time.