MSPs to investigate impact of Covid-19 on financial sustainability of local government in Scotland

23.07.2020

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Scottish council finances and whether it will lead to a “new normal” in the way some services are delivered is to be investigated by a Holyrood Committee.

 

The Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee has launched a call for views on the impact of Covid-19 on the financial sustainability of local government in Scotland.

MSPs will seek to identify which council services have been most impacted by the public health emergency, as well as exploring which parts of local government have been least affected or most resilient.

A key focus for the Committee will be what steps local government takes, in the short and long term, to manage the financial impact of the crisis. It will also ask what further help councils will need to overcome the ongoing funding pressures.

Looking beyond the crisis, the Committee is also keen to hear views on how soon the sector will return to normal, or whether it is time for a “new normal” in the way councils deliver services and what that future might look like.

Committee Convener, James Dornan MSP, said:

“Councils are responsible for delivering a vast range of important services that are a crucial part of our everyday lives; from social care and street cleaning to public libraries and planning. 

“When Covid-19 struck earlier this year, it had a massive impact on local authorities. They suddenly had to change basic working practices and finds ways of delivering emergency services to many vulnerable people. This has had a knock-on effect on their ability to maintain some core services.

“Council staff have risen to the challenge and there are many positive stories to share – for instance on how councils worked with others to help homeless people and rough sleepers during the lockdown.

“However, the impact of Covid-19 will likely be felt for years and the full extent of the financial implications, and the ability of councils to provide these vital public services, remains unclear. We therefore want to hear views on what can be done to help councils weather the financial storm, in the short and long-term.

“We also want to know if the crisis has also provided an opportunity for fresh thinking about how councils deliver local services and local democracy and whether there are already good practises councils can share.

The Committee scrutinises Scottish Government housing policy, as well as local government housing responsibilities, and views on the impact of Covid-19 on housing policy are also welcome.

Background 

To help with its scrutiny work, the Committee wants to hear views on these issues:
1. How has Covid-19 impacted the local government sector and, in particular, council finances? Which council responsibilities are most impacted?
2. Which parts of local government have been least affected or most resilient?
3. What help will councils need in future from the Scottish Government or others to overcome the ongoing financial strain?
4. What can local government sector do, in the short and long term, to manage the financial impact of the crisis? What positive examples can councils and others share about the good work done at local government and community level to lessen the crisis?
5. How soon do you think the sector will be back to normal? Or is this time for a “new normal” in the way we deliver some council services or practice local democracy? If so, what will it look like?

The call for views is open until Friday 4 September 2020. Please send your views to LocalGovernmentandCommunities@parliament.scot or https://yourviews.parliament.scot/lgc/local-gov-sustainability-covid

 

 

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