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'TOUGH CHOICES LIE AHEAD FOR COUNCILS'

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Cosla has said that whilst it is a tight settlement* it would be wrong of local government not to recognise the pos...
Cosla has said that whilst it is a tight settlement* it would be wrong of local government not to recognise the positives' to come out of the local government finance settlement unveiled by the finance minister today.

Cosla president Pat Watters said: 'Whilst it is a very tight settlement that will result in councils having to make tough choices and difficult decisions in the months ahead it is a settlement that councils will deliver on', adding: 'that it would be wrong of councils to overlook 'hard-fought' wins by Cosla for Scottish local government in terms of concessions from the Executive.

'These wins which had come about as a result of the pressure applied by Cosla include, Quality of Life monies, being consolidated into baseline for future years, the Better Neighbourhood Services Fund and£40m to meet increased National Insurance costs amongst others.

'We only recently saw the major impact that the Quality of Life monies made to communities the length and breadth of Scotland.

'This is an example of partnership actually working in practice and we need to develop that partnership built on mutual respect and understanding.'

Cosla also acknowledged the early announcement of individual councils grant figures from the Executive, which will allow councils to plan strategically the delivery of local services for the next three years.

But Mr Watters said: 'It is certainly not bonanza time. Councils are however committed to delivering local services on a best value basis and will make best use of the money, which has been made available.'

He continued: 'There is still too much central direction and targeting of resources by the Executive and we need to sit down jointly to consider how we can more flexibly deliver on shared priorities and provide sufficient funding for councils to address local priorities.'

'There is also still a good bit of detail to be ironed out from today's figures, for example the additional monies still to be announced under the Better Neighbourhood Services Fund need early discussion and clarification with local government.

'I would also stress to the minister the need for him to move away from individual pots of money being allocated to local government and move instead to up front announcements.'

Mr Watters concluded: 'As I have already said, whilst it is not bonanza time, there are some good things in today's announcement.

'You also have to appreciate that finance is not the be all and end all of our relationship with the Executive.

'Some of the recent local government legislation is very favourable to councils and includes the extension of the duty of best value across the public sector; a statutory footing for community planning; the power of well-being and the abolition of Section 94 Capital Consents and the introduction of the Prudential Borrowing Scheme which could play a major role in allowing councils to build up infrastructure.

'Finally, although we disagree with PR for council elections I think itis also fair to say that the White Paper on Renewing Local Democracy re-affirms the importance of local government and a commitment to removing barriers and introducing remuneration and pensions systems for councillors.'

* full details of the settlement available here.

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