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COSLA QUESTIONS NEED FOR CENTRAL CONTROL

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COSLA President Norman Murray said today that while he welcomed the ...
COSLA President Norman Murray said today that while he welcomed the

earlier than usual announcement of capital consent levels, the need for the minister to control investment levels had to be fundamentally questioned.

Speaking after a meeting with the finance minister Jack McConnell in COSLA's Offices this morning, COSLA President Norman Murray said: 'I welcome today's announcement on consents as it gives councils an early indication of their investment levels for the financial year starting 1 April, 2000.

'In acknowledging the fact that the consents represent a year on year

increase over current levels, it must be recognised that this comes on the back of a number of years of cuts in consent levels.

'More fundamentally it needs to be fully appreciated that what we are seeing again today is the Minister's central controls over local government finance.

'It has to be remembered that consent is not hard cash but a permission from central government for councils to borrow money to finance much needed investment to improve the structure and fabric of their schools, infrastructure and other community facilities.

'On a final note', concluded Councillor Murray: 'We also stressed to the minister the need for us to sit down and jointly quantify the infrastructure investment needs of local government, so that together we can plan how that investment need can be funded over the coming years.'

NOTES

The following table shows net consent levels to local government from

1997/98 to 2001/02

Net Consent£m. Year on Year Change %

1997/98 341

1998/99 324 -5.0%

1999/00 310 -4.3%

2000/01 321 +3.5%

2001/02 357 +11.2%

Meanwhile, Norman Murray said that local government can be trusted, but more importantly, must be trusted by central government.

He said: 'The meeting between our all party delegation and the minister was very useful.

'It provided us with the opportunity to emphasise to him the enormous

problems and difficult decisions councillors will need to make about where resources should be applied, the level of services that can be provided and what impact this has on charges and the council tax.

'We emphasised to him that next year's settlement, for the seventh year in a row, adopts a self financing policy on pay awards and price increases.'

Councillor Murray continued: 'The ability of local government to simply absorb these costs was strongly challenged and the government was called on to review its policy in this respect.'

He concluded: 'All 32 of Scotland's councils are committed to delivering quality as well as value for money services. The Minister needs to relax central controls and trust local government to deliver best value having regard to agreed priorities. Local government can be and must be trusted.'

NOTES

A self-financing pay policy has operated since 1994/95. To date the

cumulative cost of pay awards since that time amount to£600 million. Pay awards for next year are likelyto amount to around a further£100 million.

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