Funding for local councils has dropped in the past seven years despite the Scottish Government receiving more cash from Westminster, according to new analysis.
The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) has published its assessment of the draft Scottish Budget which was announced last week.
According to the Spice publication, real terms funding for local authorities has dropped by £404.8 million – around 3.8% – since 2013/14, sitting at £10.38 billion during 2019/20.
During the same period, funding sent to the Scottish Government by Westminster has increased in real terms by £795.2 million, a rise of 2.6% from £31.1 billion to £31.9 billion.
The figures have been adjusted to match 2019/20 levels of inflation.
The research also found a change in how the funding allocations are put to councils.
Councils were previously given a deadline to accept the funding pledges, however Spice said this year they are asked to submit any “discrepancies or changes required” – apparently without the opportunity to disagree with the offer.
Final budget allocations are subject to consultation between the Scottish Government and local authorities.
Despite the drop in overall funding in previous years, Spice researchers say there has been a 3% real terms increase in funding for 2020/21 when compared to 2019/20, the equivalent of £303.2 million.
However, local authority umbrella body Cosla has said the increase – £495 million in cash terms – does not factor in ring-fenced Scottish Government commitments of £590 million, meaning there is actually a drop of £95 million.
Public finance minister Kate Forbes announced the draft Budget last Thursday at Holyrood – standing in for finance secretary Derek Mackay after his resignation that morning over reports he sent 270 messages to a 16-year-old boy.
The draft Budget also showed a real terms increase for all 32 individual councils in Scotland, however researchers say this may not protect the authorities from cuts.
The report said: “It is worth noting that Government grant is only one element of individual local authority budgets.
“Therefore when ‘savings’ figures are calculated by local authorities, they generally take their combined revenue grant from the Scottish Government, plus their assumed council tax income on one side, and then assumptions of demand for services on the other side.
“So although the briefing shows that all local authorities receive a real terms increase in their total revenue allocations from the Scottish Government, that does not mean that authorities will not need to make hard choices about service delivery in their areas.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Despite a real terms reduction of £840 million to Scotland’s discretionary resource budget allocation since 2010-11, as well as our protection of the health budget, we have ensured our partners in local government continue to receive a fair funding settlement that supports vital public services.
“Local authorities will receive total funding from the Scottish Government of £11.3 billion in 2020-21.
“Taken together with the flexibility to increase council tax, our local government settlement this year gives councils an increase of revenue spending of up to 4.3% in real terms to deliver local services.”