Scottish councils are being forced to slash £500 million from their budgets before further spending pressures are heaped on them, the umbrella body representing administrations has warned.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) told both the UK and Scottish governments they “cannot take any more pain” as local jobs and services are hacked away at.
Almost 2,400 Fife Council positions were earmarked for the axe between 2011 and 2018 as part of efforts to find a massive £77 million of savings but financial watchdog Audit Scotland has said those cuts alone are not enough to close the budget gap.
Dundee City Council has talked of “inevitable” job cuts as it attempts to save £28 million, while earlier this month Angus Council revealed a £25 million financial black hole.
And the leader of Perth and Kinross Council Ian Miller last night delivered a dire warning that “nothing will be safe” if more cash needs to be saved.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to outline billions of cuts during his Autumn Statement on Wednesday and the Scottish Government has been criticised by some for the amount of funding it has given to councils, particularly given the enforced freeze on council tax.
Cosla’s finance spokesman and leader of Dundee’s Labour group of councillors, Kevin Keenan, said Scottish local government was facing nearly half a billion pounds of spending pressures for next year before Mr Osborne and Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney “even have their pencils out.”
He added: “We are already operating within a financial straightjacket in terms of the tools we have at our disposal with things like the council tax freeze restricting our ability to operate.
“Make no mistake, councils are going to be faced with making very difficult decisions but this time around we are talking about more than soft targets we are talking of severe cuts in vital services and job losses in communities and undoubtedly these will impact on the most vulnerable in our society.”
Mr Miller said job losses could become a reality in Perthshire’s public sector if funding is squeezed further.
He said: “We are obviously looking for reductions in our budget. It is tough for everyone at the moment.
“In Perth and Kinross we have managed budgets well over the years so that leaves us some leeway.
“We have transferred a number of services and transferred our management structures within Perth and Kinross Council.
“We are as mean and as lean as we can be but even that doesn’t sound like it’s going far enough to withstand the pressures which will be coming on us.
“Nothing will be safe… We will try to fight against (job losses) as much as we can but there are no guarantees in a situation like this.”