The leader of East Renfrewshire Council has written to Nicola Sturgeon to highlight the “severe and far-reaching consequences” the current Scottish Government budget settlement will have for local residents.

Councillor Owen O’Donnell has called on the First Minister to recognise the "damaging impact" of ring-fencing so much of the council's budget to deliver national priorities.

And, as he prepares to deliver East Renfrewshire's budget on March 1, he is urging the Scottish Government to think again and deliver a settlement that will give councils the power to make the decisions needed to tackle local priorities.

Councillor O’Donnell told the Barrhead News: “I have written to the First Minister to outline my great concerns about the severe and far-reaching consequences the local government settlement will have on council budgets.

"In East Renfrewshire, we are facing a budget shortfall of more than £30million over the next three years, which will leave us with no option but to cut services and jobs.

"This unprecedented financial challenge will have a huge impact on our residents who rely so much on the vital services the council provides.”

A budget engagement process staged by the council in the autumn outlined many of the savings options being considered to balance the books.

The response from residents was the largest ever to an exercise of this kind.

Councillor O’Donnell added: “Our residents have made their concerns about the scale of cuts required known to us and there are undoubtedly some very difficult decisions ahead, so to then be told of yet more Scottish Government restrictions on how we can spend our settlement, particularly in education, only puts more pressure on other areas of our budget.

"Stripping councils of the power to decide at a local level how best to tackle such important priorities as closing the attainment gap will only hamper our efforts and create a democratic deficit for local people.

"The ring-fencing of so much of our funding to support national policy priorities is unacceptable, particularly given our settlement from the Scottish Government has left us with barely any extra cash on a like-for-like basis.

"This leaves us with no room to manoeuvre when it comes to local spending priorities and also forces us to consider an increase in council tax which households already struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis can ill afford.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government recognises the crucial role councils and their employees play in our communities across Scotland and the challenging financial circumstances they face.

"We know councils and other public bodies face real hikes in the price of energy and key services like free school meals due to the cost of living crisis. It is hugely disappointing that the UK Government has provided no additional support for the public sector to help meet these costs.

"The Scottish Government’s settlements from the UK Government have suffered a decade of austerity, with average real terms cuts of over 5%, equating to a loss of £18 billion.

"Despite this, Scottish Ministers have listened to councils and are increasing the resources available to local government in 2023-24, with East Renfrewshire Council receiving £220 million to fund day-to-day services, which equates to an extra £15.1 million, or 7.3%, compared to 2022-23."