Councils will face increasing pressure to balance budgets in the years ahead, according to the country’s public spending watchdog.
Audit Scotland said local authorities are now facing funding gaps and need to have effective long-term financial plans to understand their finances and future pressures – and provide options for addressing them.
Its findings come as a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report shows that while the reduction in funding gaps is less in Scotland than England, it is still a major concern.
Professor Annette Hastings from the University of Glasgow said: “Local councils find themselves in an incredibly difficult position. At a time when the agenda is about how to make public services work better, particularly for those that need them the most, councils are being subjected to year on year funding cuts.
“Their capacity to deliver positive change is being reduced just when it is needed the most.”
Falkirk Council leader, Councillor Craig Martin, said the findings showed the SNP Government was under-funding local government by 8.5 per cent since 2011.
He said: “This is further independent evidence that the SNP Government is attacking local government, councils are taking the brunt of cuts in Scotland.
“This is reducing services that our children, elderly and most vulnerable depend on, yet the SNP has the cheek to say that this Labour-led council has mismanaged the budget.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scottish councils continue to get a good deal from the Scottish Government, despite the impact of the UK Government’s cuts to Scotland’s budget, with local government’s revenue funding and capital share maintained over the four years 2012-16 on a like with like basis and will be increased, with additional funding for new responsibilities, in 2014-15 to almost £10.8 billion and to over £10.85 billion in 2015-16.
“Local authorities have a duty to use resources as efficiently and effectively as possible to ensure taxpayers get the best possible services and value for money.
“We would expect all councillors to consider this report and any necessary action to implement its recommendations.”