Councillors in Angus have called for Scottish Government to step up as local councils reach ‘tipping point.’
A new report has shown that though Angus Council is currently financially stable, it could still financially crumble unless the Scottish Government steps in.
The state of the council’s finances have for the moment been deemed as “adequate” with their financial reserves and income given the okay.
But the council’s vital funds for spending have been highlighted as “weak” which puts a lot of stress on money that’s available for public services.
Councillors during a full council meeting on Thursday were warned that local governments have reached a “tipping point” and that “fundamental change is required” in order to safeguard their survival.
Ian Lorimer, director of finance said: “Fundamental change at a national level is required for Angus Council for to be financially sustainable over the medium to long term.
“The council can’t solve the long-term financial sustainability challenges itself, even assuming council tax is increased. Collaboration and new models of delivery will all make a difference and can help.
“We need help, at a national level.”
64% of the Council’s net budget is effectively tied up, meaning that the council has very little wiggle room for options in savings.
The Scottish Government has suggested an increase of up to 22.5% for the highest tax band, with the rise only affecting properties in bands E to H.
Councillors approved a response in favour of the tax hike, but officials have stressed that this will not be enough to prevent cuts to services.
During the meeting councillors warned that public services that have been taken as a given could be at risk with the risk of funds becoming stretched in the future.
Councillor Chris Beattie said that: “Local government has changed enormously since I started working in it nearly 40 years ago.
“It’s going to continue to change, services that we’ve become used to can no longer be taken for granted.”
Some raised concerns over the current state of local governments up and down the UK, and with Birmingham City Council filing for bankruptcy Angus is working to avoid the same fate.
Mr Lorimer warned: “There is still a lot of work to be done nationally by government and locally by ourselves to avoid the type of crisis situation that we are seeing with some of the local authorities in England.”
Is Angus Council at risk?
Though the future of local governments across the board are suffering Angus Council as it currently stands is in an “acceptable” position, but without changes to funding and expenditure could very quickly be “eroded.”
Councillor Martin Shepherd said: “I just want to reach out to the Scottish Government, the Westminster Government, that we need additional funding.
“We don’t want to end up like Birmingham City Council so we really need some radicalism coming forward for the sake and the future of local government.”
What is the Scottish Government doing to help?
However, the Scottish Government has increased the resources available to local governments in 2023-24 by more than £793 million, a increase of £376 million compared to the 2022-23 budget figures.
The Scottish Government is also working with local authorities’ body Cosla to help ensure councils are getting the support they desperately need.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The public sector across the UK is facing ongoing budget pressures as a result of UK Government austerity, and the Scottish Government acknowledges the financial challenges facing councils.
“We have a long history of working together with local authorities and bodies such as COSLA to make sure council finances are sustainable and that available resources can meet long-term financing commitments.”