The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney, is currently in talks with COSLA about the local government settlement for 2016-17.
Mr Swinney has laid out a set of key requirements from councils in return for the funding package on offer: continuation of the council tax freeze, a guarantee on teacher numbers, and specific use of the £250m in the draft Scottish Budget allocated for health and social care integration. A letter sent by Mr Swinney to the COSLA President last week makes it clear that authorities must use at least part of this money to fund the Living Wage (currently £8.25 per hour) for all social care workers, including those employed by third and independent sector providers.
CCPS is delighted that Mr Swinney has given such a high priority to achieving the Living Wage in our sector: we have been pressing the Scottish Government for some time to underwrite its rhetorical commitment with cash for contracted public services: it appears that our message has been heard, and this is the result.
However, this deal is not yet sealed: for a start, COSLA remains unpersuaded that the funds allocated are sufficient to the task. More pertinently, Mr Swinney’s letter to COSLA says that in achieving a Living Wage, providers will be expected to “meet their share of the costs”. CCPS and Scottish Care are actively engaging with both Scottish Government and COSLA to better understand what this might mean.
CCPS is also concerned that previous initiatives where funds have been allocated to local government for onward transmission to our sector – including the recent £2.5m ‘Fair Work’ resource – the monies have been retained by councils without ever reaching their intended destination.
We will be briefing our members further as discussions develop.