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Scottish councils are committed to providing quality services at a price people can afford and to the principles of...
Scottish councils are committed to providing quality services at a price people can afford and to the principles of best value, COSLA has told local government minister Calum MacDonald.

'Our aspirations for local government are very similar to those of the Scottish Office,' COSLA president Keith Geddes said after the first meeting between COSLA and the Scottish Office in the 1999-2000 local government finance round.

'We both want to see strong local government providing the services that communities both want and need - and within the terms of the best value regime, but new pressures on local government resources will make it impossible for us to fully achieve that without changes in the funding settlement,' he said.

'Under the present arrangements central government controls both our level of spending and how much money we receive by way of grant.

'Therefore the level of service that we can provide and the level of the council tax are very heavily dependent upon these decisions made by the secretary of state.

'With the results of the comprehensive spending review to be announced soon, now is the opportunity for the government to take a far more realistic view of our expenditure requirements and to fund these accordingly.

'While we appreciated the extra£117m found this year for education and food hygiene these must be retained within the system and built upon.

'Over the years there have been areas of spending which have not been properly costed or funded by central government. For example we are now in the fifth year of self-financing pay awards at a cost of about£100m per annum.

'If this cost is not recognised in either the settlement for next year or the CSR covering the next three years then we will face the prospect of further job losses, cuts in services and increases in charges.

'Over the last two years over 10,500 jobs have been shed in local government this has a direct effect on local economies throughout Scotland.

'Inflation is currently running at a rate of 4.5% and the settlement for next year needs to recognise the spending pressures which arise.

'We have today warned the minister of the severity of the situation,' cllr Geddes concluded, 'and I hope they will take our views into

account both in terms of the 1999-2000 settlement and the comprehensive spending review.'

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