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Seòmar agus comataidhean

Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee

Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth submission of 12 November 2021

PE1912/A – Funding for council venues

Firstly, I should note that this is a hugely challenging time for people and organisations in the culture, heritage and leisure sector and we are acutely aware of the impacts of COVID-19 on local authority culture and leisure services.

The Scottish Government places great importance on culture and leisure facilities and believes everyone should have access to these services. However as independent corporate bodies it is for local authorities to decide what services will be offered, and it is for the locally elected representatives to make these decisions.

Turning now to funding for local government, Scotland’s councils have been allocated an additional £1.5 billion in direct support through the local government finance settlement and councils have also been granted additional financial flexibilities to address the financial pressures caused by COVID-19.

In addition, the 2021-22 Local Government Settlement of almost £11.7 billion provides a cash increase in local government day to day spending for local revenue services of £375.6 million or 3.5 per cent.

However, the Scottish Government’s policy towards local authorities’ spending is to allow local authorities the financial freedom to operate independently. As such, the vast majority of the revenue funding is provided by means of a block grant. It is the responsibility of individual local authorities to manage their own budgets and to allocate the total financial resources available to them, including on culture and leisure services, on the basis of local needs and priorities, having first fulfilled their statutory obligations and the jointly agreed set of national and local priorities.

Decisions on future local government finance settlements will be the subject of negotiations with COSLA on behalf of all 32 local authorities and announced as part of the outcome of future Scottish Budgets and Spending Reviews.

Finally, I can confirm that the Scottish Government continue to meet with COSLA and individual local authorities on a regular basis to cover a range of topics, including budget pressures and how we can recover from the pandemic as quickly and efficiently as possible.