The leader of East Renfrewshire Council has backed calls to pause the development of a National Care Service and insisted the money “could be spent on improving social care directly.”

Owen O’Donnell spoke out after the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) urged the Scottish Government to halt plans for the new service and direct funding to frontline care services.

Under the proposals, a series of boards would be set up to run social care services, rather than local councils, but Councillor O’Donnell believes the move is “a waste of time and energy.”

He said: “There would be a huge waste of money in a time when money can be better spent elsewhere. We’ve got a very good HSCP (health and social care partnership) here, it’s struggling with staff recruitment at the moment.

“I think more money for care workers would be very, very welcome and that would help with staff retention and recruitment.”

East Renfrewshire Council previously took part in a consultation on the National Care Service proposals, with cross-party support for retaining “local accountability.”

It also said funding to councils should be increased, as improvements would be made “more quickly and effectively” that way.

“This is an area where there is unanimity in the council,” said Councillor O’Donnell. “We are all against it, everyone, regardless of party.

“We can’t see the benefits at all. All we can see is years of administrative reorganisation when all that money could be spent on improving social care directly.”

The Labour politician admitted social care in East Renfrewshire is “struggling” but added that is also the case with other councils.

“I think one of the big issues is staff sickness over the winter period,” he said. “If you’re a care worker and you’ve got a cold or a flu, you cannot go anywhere near the residents because that’s just irresponsible. That’s had a big impact on services.

“Hopefully that will naturally recover as we get out of that cold/flu season but it has been pretty acute. Our staff have been working all hours to deliver the service.

“They are absolutely dedicated to providing the best possible service but you need people and, if you can’t get the people through sickness or recruitment, then you are going to struggle.”

Cosla has said the budget announced by the Scottish Government last month includes real-terms cuts to council funding and this will impact social care and social work services.

Councillor O’Donnell believes there is “far too much centralisation” from the Scottish Government.

“East Renfrewshire is a very efficient local authority and it’s got a very efficient HSCP and that’s because we are close to our communities,” he said.

“I don’t mind centralisation if it improves outcomes but there is nothing in any of the papers that I saw that actually proved that any of this would improve outcomes.

“It’s fine to have national frameworks but you don’t need national bureaucracies with investment in Scottish Government infrastructure to deliver on this. You need that investment out where it is being delivered.”