Services for poor 'hardest hit by council cuts'

SCOTTISH councils have made most of their cuts from services aimed at the poorest people, according to new research.

The study by Glasgow and Heriot Watt universities and the Scottish Parliament Information Centre found that around two-thirds of council spending goes to services mainly, although not exclusively, used by those on the lowest incomes, such as social work, public transport and some areas of children's services.

As a result, the report said, local authorities have had "little option" but to make the bulk of their savings from services mainly used by poorer people.

However, the analysis also found that "pro-rich" services, which it defined as areas including car parks, museums and art galleries, are facing proportionally higher cuts.

Anne Hastings, professor for urban studies at Glasgow University and one of the authors of the report, said: "That the services used more by the rich are being cut at a higher rate is really quite interesting because it shows councils are trying to protect and shield low-income groups from the worst effects of the council cuts.

"Councils don't have much wriggle room and this is not a solution. Social care and social work will not be able to withstand cuts of this magnitude continuing."

Scottish councils saw funding cut by around £350m in the 2016-17 finance settlement. This represented a drop of 3.6 per cent this year, or around 5.2 per cent in real terms.

Council tax has also been frozen in Scotland since 2007 and will be held again next year.

Some local authorities have already called for extra tax-raising powers, including control over business rates, a tourism tax and the revenue generated by air passenger duty, to cope with the cuts.

Responding to the new report, local government body Cosla, said: "The simple truth and hard fact is that we cannot completely shelter our communities from significant cuts to local government.

"Historically, Scotland's councils have had a long and proud track record of standing up for the most vulnerable in society and up until now it is only through the efficiency and good practice delivered by local government that communities have been protected thus far.

"However, as we have said, there is little place left to go and therefore if we are really serious about tackling inequalities in Scotland, then we need to resource this properly."