“Unintended consequences” of supporting people element of budget settlement recognised by COSLA

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Published Date: 

27 Jan 2011 - 15:19

There was no way officers or elected representatives from Argyll and Bute Council could have anticipated or altered the greater-than-expected cut in Supporting People funding from the Scottish Government.

 That’s the unequivocal message given to Argyll and Bute Council leader Dick Walsh, in a letter from COSLA chief executive Rory Mair. (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities)

Mr Mair said “Leaders agreed that the only change to the distribution of the Supporting People resources should be that the indicators used for distribution were updated to their current levels. The decision was reported to Scottish Government officials who carry out the distribution process. Unfortunately, through “a misinterpretation, misunderstanding or difference of view” a rather more complicated calculation was carried out”.

Mr Mair confirmed that the way the formula had been applied led to “much greater losses of resources for Argyll and Bute than you, your chief executive, your chief finance officer or COSLA officers could have predicted.”

Mr Mair’s letter concludes:

It is clear to me that no-one in Argyll and Bute Council, either at officer or member level, could have or should have predicted the situation that has arisen.”

Councillor Walsh referred to Mr Mair’s letter in his response to a question raised at today’s council meeting.

Councillor Walsh said:

“The letter from COSLA confirms the stance we have taken from the outset – that the ‘supporting people’ allocation was a misinterpretation. Anyone who takes the time to read Mr Mair’s full letter, and the documents he sends with it, will see that no-one present at the COSLA meetings expected the supporting people allocations to radically change. The COSLA agreement should have ensured that updating the formula would lead to very little change and no volatility for any individual council’s supporting people allocation.

“Far from agreeing to accept this large cut, the chief executive and I are continuing the discussions we started with COSLA when the budget settlement was first announced, to see how the situation can be redressed.”

 Argyll and Bute Council faces a 4.94% reduction in its funding from the Scottish Government, which is double the national average, leaving it with an actual budget reduction of between £15 million and £16 million for 2011/12.



  • Councillor Walsh was asked: ‘What explanation does the Council Leader offer on behalf of himself, Councillor Hay and the Chief Executive for agreeing to a £5.588m reduction in Supporting People funding through COSLA (the Hay-Walsh cut) to Argyll & Bute for 2011-12?”
  • Distribution of the ring-fenced Supporting People Fund was discussed by COSLA members in 2004. At the time a dampening process was included in the calculations to ensure no council would see its allocation reduce by more than 18%.
  • The distribution method was due for review in 2007.
  • In 2007 it was agreed the fund did not have to be ring fenced for supporting people activities. As a result COSLA were asked how this money should be distributed.
  • COSLA agreed the fund distribution mechanism should remain the same for the period 2007-10. It was understood that councils would receive the same amount as they were allocated in 2007.
  • In 2010 COSLA agreed the 2011-12 figure should be calculated based on updated indicators. COSLA officers and other councils predicted this would lead to very little change in the allocation for any individual council and was agreed because it provided stability.
  • Argyll and Bute Council will receive a grant of £220.059 million in 2011-12, compared with £231.488 million received in 2010-11 – a drop of £11.429 million
  • This represents a 4.94% reduction in its funding – almost double the average reduction across the rest of Scotland.
  • Across Scotland the average reduction is 2.59%.
  •  Argyll and Bute Council’s decrease is £5.434m more than if it had received the average cut.