Scottish councils issue warning NHS cuts protection

composit pic of council services
Image caption Cosla said there should not be any "sacred cows"

Scottish councils have warned Finance Secretary John Swinney against protecting NHS spending in the predicted round of budget cuts.

The president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Pat Watters, said to do so would place an unfair burden on councils to make cuts.

The Scottish government has indicated that it will protect the NHS when its budget is announced later this year.

But Cosla said no single area should be immune from cuts.

Mr Watters said about a third of Scotland's budget is spent on the NHS, and other public services would be disproportionately affected by cuts if that was ringfenced.

He said 70% of councils' spending was in social work and education services.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "If we took the same view in local authorities and said we were going to protect vital services, such as education and social work services, we wouldn't have any more money to deliver anything else.

"That's how bad it would be.

"We're at a very early stage and are going to have a whole series of meetings with the government where we're going to discuss how we handle the deficit in the short and long term.

"But we need to look at every single thing to ensure we protect services - starting off by saying one thing's sacrosanct is not a good start.

"We need to put everything on the table and look at it very realistically."

'Open dialogue'

Mr Swinney said the key point was to have "an open dialogue" about priorities.

"The share of public sector funding going to local government has increased every year since I have been the finance minister," he said.

"The health secretary has said there will not be compulsory redundancies with the NHS as part of this spending review period. But there is every likelihood there will not be as many as jobs in the health service as today.

"We've said, should there be a real terms increase in the health budget from the UK government, we would pass on the Barnett consequentials to the health service in Scotland.

"That commitment does not mean that there won't be change or challenge or difficulty within the health service."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites